Monday, April 7, 2014

Sabah Kidnap - Failure to protect dwellers is dereliction of duty

11:39AM Apr 7, 2014
By Steve Oh

The Malaysiakini report ‘Retract ‘close down’ remark , Matta tells Junaidi’ highlights a serious flaw in government thinking that will damage the country’s image abroad.

If unretracted, the principle and precedent established is that your country has conceded defeat to interlopers and criminals and lost control of its border security because it admits it cannot safeguard its borders.

No one then can feel safe in certain parts of the country and its greatest natural assets often found in remote areas can no longer be safe for tourists.

When a government cannot guarantee the safety of its inhabitants within its borders something is seriously remiss. It signals the  government has failed to uphold law and order and thus failed in its most fundamental responsibility - to protect its citizens and others from potential harm from outside attacks.

Why should the internal security of Semporna be any different from that of Kuala Lumpur? After all practical problems have practical solutions. In times of peace should not the soldiers be redeployed in safeguarding vulnerable areas in the country? Malaysian soldiers have taken part in UN peace-keeping forces abroad haven’t they?

Even the ancient Chinese built a mighty great wall to protect its people in the most remote parts of their country. But Malaysia is not interested in protecting its relatively short borders? And wants resort owners to protect themselves or abandon the projects?

How mind-boggling is that?

What message or invitation is this sending out to those with criminal or other malicious intent that would want to enter the country illegally? I hope the government realises the ramifications of the deputy minister’s open remarks.

What is the use of sophisticated equipment such as the Scorpene submarines when they serve no useful purpose in ensuring the safety and security of the nation's borders? Would not more practical equipment that enhance coastal, air and other surveillance equipment and better intelligence be more effective and cheaper?

And then there is the common sense approach of working with the locals who can be their ‘eyes and ears’ well before any potential incursion is launched. How hard is it to have some of the Special Branch people located in the places where potential attacks may come?

If those Special Branch  people can be put to greater and proper use doing their real jobs instead of being underemployed and assigned to survey opposition politicians and civic activists the country’s security will be strengthened.

The same goes for the police. If more of them are properly deployed to go after criminals instead of ‘policing’ opposition politicians and civil activists who pose no threat to internal security, the country will be a safer place.

Ill-thought opinion or pillar policy?

It is something which no government in its right mind would want to have entrenched as policy that you give up what you can’t control within your sovereign borders. The government has to clarify if it is the deputy minister's unofficial ill-thought opinion made in the aftermath of the incident or a pillar policy of home security.

I doubt Malaysians will like to have areas within its borders declared ‘white areas’ as once threatened by the communists  during the Emergency and become ‘no-go zones’. It  will damage the country's image as a tourist place because a reason people visit Malaysia is its relative peace and safety.

Malaysians have already seen suburbs turn into bastions of private security since the police can no longer guarantee the home security of residents and home break-ins and robberies have become a serious endemic problem.

If Malaysia wants to be a developed nation it needs to give priority to home safety and border security and putting the right people in the right jobs must surely help. When you observe many of the problems inherent in the country that can be avoided, you need not be a genius to figure out that incompetence is not far down from corruption in the country's list of serious wrongs.

The deputy minister's idea of getting resort owners to desert the popular tourist areas is nothing short of preposterous. What is the point of owning one of the world’s best natural marine areas that people don't feel safe to visit or can’t visit? Will the government compensate the resort owners for their financial loss?

Government ministers should be more circumspect in what they say and not simply make statements without care and concern for the welfare of others. As it is Sabah is already finding unemployment a problem and where will the lost jobs in tourism come from?

In fact it will open the government to lawsuits for failing to provide the security for the resort owners since a basic obligation of all governments is to provide national security and when Semporna has been promoted as a desirable tourist destination to a global clientele.

The government should step in and regain and boost control of its border security than surrender to any foreign threat. It is the more intelligent and viable solution. I don’t see the foreign countries surrendering to the Somali pirates and asking their ships not to pass by those sea-lanes. Instead they sent warships into the areas to defeat the pirates.

We have seen the recent help Australia has given Malaysia in the search for MH370. Perhaps it is time Malaysia seeks Australia’s expertise also in helping to secure its borders because the latter has a bigger coastline to survey.

It has managed to keep out illegal intrusions into their borders with scant exceptions like the Sri Lankan boat carrying refugees that arrived in an Australian port undetected until in full public view a few years ago.

If the attitude you give up what you can’t control is applied elsewhere and resort owners are forced to take care of the safety of their resorts what is to become of Malaysia as a safe haven for tourists?

Private security becoming a growth industry

Someone must be making a pile out of those private security contracts. When private security becomes a growth industry then you know you are living in a criminal-infested place.

No centimetre of Malaysian territory should be surrendered to any foreigner and until you have the Home Ministry committed to the principle of safeguarding every citizen within its shores and will take every measure to improve security, Malaysia can expect more kidnappings and further intrusions because the deputy home minister has already publicly conceded defeat and lost the will to resolve the problem.

Many years ago a friend of mine was living in Lahad Datu when he saw the foreign intruders attack the area to commit their crimes. He was working there for the government.

Don’t Malaysian citizens also deserve to feel their government can be relied on to protect them while they are contributing to the country’s development in any part of the country?

Matta’s urging is one which will find much public support and the Tourism Ministry will have to change its slogan to ‘Visit Malaysia for the Ultimate Kidnap Experience’ and in small print, ‘Don’t complain we didn’t warn you to bring your own bodyguard’.'

It may be tongue in cheek but I do think the deputy home minister will have to retract his statement or damn Malaysia, as another dangerous third world destination that foreign tourists should avoid.

Clever ideas provide the solution but not-so-clever ideas become part of the problem.

It is the government’s duty to protect every inhabitant - citizen or visitor - within its borders and failure to do so is dereliction of duty and breach of trust.

STEVE OH is author and composer of the novel and musical ‘Tiger King of the Golden Jungle’.


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