It was reported that Abu Sayyaf leader Abraham Hamid was a “spotter” who commanded a unit that prowled the porous borders separating Sabah and Sulu looking for victims that they would then hand over to bigger groups in the Abu Sayyaf’s jungle strongholds in Sulu and Basilan islands.
Hamid’s group, using a blue, twin-engine, 80-horsepower speedboat, had pounced on two fishing trawlers on Thursday evening, taking one hostage from each boat.
They then approached a third unmarked vessel that turned out to be filled with policemen from Tiger Platoon.
So it would appear that what actually happened was like the “greed befell Abraham”. I would like to ask why Hamid’s group could be successful with the other earlier two fishing trawlers when the vessel of tiger platoon was in the vicinity?
What if Hamid’s group just left with the two “scoops”?
The President of Philippines Duterte allegedly relayed the conversation he had with Prime Minister Najib Razak and Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo, in which he told both leaders’ that their security forces could enter Philippine waters to pursue militants fleeing with the victims they kidnapped.
Duterte also advised the two leaders “Bomb them. If they cannot be captured, you bomb them.
How about the hostages? Eh, bomb them also. He added that they are not supposed to be there, there is a warning,” he said.
Esscom has been with us for a few years already with substantial assets worth more than a billion Ringgit and so far with meagre result to tackle the kidnappings for ransom in the high seas for reasons only known to them.
Now, the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) has initiated the usage of Channel 16 for communication in sea areas with all fishing vessel owners and fishermen.
Its director, Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Khalid said the communication channel previously was used by large ships sailing in the east coast of Sabah to contact the authorities in the event of an emergency.
Commenting on the installation of Automated Identification System (AIS), Bari said the AIS installation process had reached its final stages.
“Since it receives positive feedback from boat operators, the installation of AIS is now in final stages.
So, all of our fishing vessels will soon be equipped with AIS in near future,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bari reiterated that Esscom was committed to addressing the security issue at sea.
therefore, the cooperation from all parties either from fishermen and boat operators was important.
However, he emphasised the importance of the public, especially local communities and fishermen to have high awareness in giving full support and working closely with the security forces safeguarding and protecting the nation’s sovereignty from intrusions.
“It would be a difficult task for the security forces teams to discharge their duties and tasks well in protecting the 1,733.3 kilometre coastline from Kudat to Tawau and 361 islands and reefs if there is no support from the local communities.” Bari said.
“Any security planning would also be meaningless if there is no such full cooperation from the public to us (the security forces),” Bari said.
We were also told recently that fishermen and fish trawlers stopped going out to fish in the high seas with livelihood of these people as curtailed and the fish supplies soon in deficit in Sabah to meet the growing demands for local consumption and export.
It is appreciated that surveillance of the total lengthy 1,733.3 kilometre coastline in Sabah, especially in the east coast, is a greater challenge as it is now. We need to construct some sort of boundary fence like floating pvc tubes for less than 1,000 kilometre there with a few entry points for easier control of genuine visitors and traders in registered vessels like President elect Donald Trump building a wall over Mexico border to keep the undesirables out.
With such a floating boundary/fence in place, we may not need to implement what Duterte suggested to bomb the victims trying to make a living in fishing.
Abu Sayaff facing Esscom as energised security force in esszone may find it tougher there to do kidnapping and may extend to the west coast. Hence I hope the security forces would heighten its security watch in the west coast, too.
Don’t let something happen in west coast before appropriate strategy for security be developed to foil any undesirable activities.
West coast have several key urban areas easily accessible by the sea. I have seen quite a few trawlers berthed in the city market near the Hyatt Kinabalu Hotel preparing for sea ventures. Hopefully such fish trawlers are also equipped with Channel 16 and AIS as fishing is a very important economic activity in Sabah.
Joshua Y C Kong