15 Apr 2014

Improve intelligence gathering work

SECURITY BREACH: We must set up an informer network on remote islands off Sabah that harbour kidnappers

ANYONE even remotely familiar with the history of piracy in the Sulu Sea, and the geography of the north east coast of Sabah, will realise the enormity of the problems involved in securing that part of the country, and keeping out unwelcome pirates and kidnappers, the latter of more recent origin, principally from the island of Tawi Tawi as well as the complex maze of adjacent islands that make up the southern Philippine archipelago.

The sea between Mindanao and the east coast of Sabah has for more than 200 years been the undisputed centre of piracy and home to the Illanun and Balanini cut-throats who have continued to find the relatively defenceless north east of Sabah fertile ground of rich rewards for minimum effort.

The little town of Semporna has for decades got used to living in fear of constant pirate attacks: the worst incident that the older people still talk about took place in 1954, when pirates armed with Bren guns and other automatic weapons overwhelmed the police post, killing all the policemen before occupying the town, in an orgy of looting and killing at will, lasting several hours.
The recent abduction cases in islands off Sabah have cast our security intelligence in doubt despite security forces  deployed  by the Eastern Sabah Security Command.

The 1962 North Borneo Annual Report stated that "Piracy around the north east coast increased with 97 cases reported against 42 cases in 1961. There were eight killings and 45 were wounded or missing.

The police and the navy obtained convictions against four pirate crews consisting of 32 men. In all cases heavy penalties were imposed."

As we can see, piracy has been around in the Philippines for a long time.
We appreciate the problems involved but that does not lessen the domestic and international concerns about the ability of the authorities to confront the security situation issues more decisively.

The raid on April 2, this year on the Singamata Reef Resort that saw the kidnapping of two women, one of whom is a Chinese national, following closely on the heels of the abduction of a Taiwanese woman and the killing of the husband in November last year, has compelled Tan Sri Robert Phang of the Malaysian Crime Foundation to write to me in the following terms:

"The second abduction taking place within a short space of six months has clearly put our security intelligence in serious doubt.

Although the security forces deployed by the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) have intensified the security measures to some extent, the fact that another incident could happen in a supposedly secure area raises the question of the effectiveness of the measures taken.

On present showing, they do not appear to be sufficiently effective to prevent a recurrence."

Phang who knows southern Philippines well, says that he has no doubt both the police and Esscom have done their best, but "I strongly urge the member of parliament for Semporna, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, to seriously put in all efforts to go back to his hometown to encourage local residents to support and work together with the authorities in finding the culprits concerned".

He said Shafie must increase the number of local committee members and special officers to interact with the people and organise the necessary crime prevention measures.

"The connectivity must be looked into and, communication and interaction with residents must be doubled. I suggest he spend three quarters of his time in his constituency where his priority is and less of his time in his office in Kuala Lumpur."

Visit Malaysia Year 2014 took off with a bang in Sabah. It was not exactly the sort of event that our redoubtable tourism minister had in mind.

It was an unwelcome distraction, coming as it did at a most inconvenient time when the nation was reeling from the MH370 flight tragedy.

Collectively, Malaysians were learning desperately to come to terms with the greatest mystery in aviation history and to try and cope with the emotional fallout such as this country has not known or experienced before.

 All in all, this year might well be remembered as Malaysia's "annus horribilis" that has threatened the equanimity of an otherwise staid people.

The armed raid on the Singamata Reef Resort off Semporna has left many wondering whether our intelligence gathering is up to scratch for dealing with serious cross-border criminal activities, in this instance originating from the neighbouring Philippine archipelago.

It seems obvious that our security agencies are operating "blind" without reliable information. We must set up an informer network in the Philippine southern islands known to harbour these gangs of kidnappers before parts of Sabah become lawless and ungovernable.

We know the logistical problems involved, but surely planting our own agents in those islands cannot be beyond the capabilities of our much respected Special Branch.

If more resources are needed to put a stop to these incursions and if the police need to be beefed up considerably in order that we may bring these activities which put us under a bad light, under control, they should be made available.

We need these incidents like we need a hole in the head. It is a police problem and I have every confidence the police, under the present political leadership, can handle the situation. Our police will only be as good as the support we are prepared to give them.

Source: http://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnist/improve-intelligence-gathering-work-1.562281

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