Abdul Karim: Cut red tape when it comes to SAR as human lives matter

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah at a press conference during his visit to the SAR control post at Telaga Air

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By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, Oct 5: The establishment of the Sarawak Coast Guard (SCG) by the State government is meant for surveillance and rescue purposes, not for security or to go to war, asserts Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

The Sarawak Coast Guard’s jurisdiction is limited as they cannot go beyond certain distance out to sea and they require permission from Kuala Lumpur before they can proceed for any operations.

Commenting on the search and rescue (SAR) team set up to look for 15 anglers in two separate missing boat incidents on Oct 2 and Oct 3 respectively, Abdul Karim said it has shown that there are conflicts between several enforcement agencies including SCG, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) and Civil Defense Force (APM) as to each agency’s respective jurisdiction.

While deep sea areas comes under MMEA and the coastal area is under Bomba, Abdul Karim questioned where other agencies such as SCG is situated.

“In any SAR, it is an emergency situation and every related agency is supposed to come together and help as fast as possible.

“When the Sarawak government established SCG, the purpose is not for security or for going to war with other countries. Instead, it is meant for surveillance and rescue so let them perform their duties. However, when unfortunate incidents arise like this cases where two boats went missing at sea, the problem of who has the jurisdiction and conflict arises.

“That was why I questioned where was our SCG during the SAR on Saturday (Oct 2). I believe our Sarawak government spent about RM80 million to set it up and buy the boats. If the boats are only sitting at the jetty then it is useless and wasting our rakyat’s monies,” Abdul Karim said at a press conference during his visit to the SAR control post at the Telaga Air public jetty today.

He added that there are certain areas the federal and state governments must refine when it comes to this issue.

When Malaysia was formed, Abdul Karim explained, matters concerning security was enshrined in the Malaysian Agreement and enforcement agencies such as the army, police, Bomba and APM were under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

However, given the vast size of Sarawak’s waters and borders, he asserted that the State government knew these agencies are likely to face problems when it comes to surveillance and disasters that requires many agencies to participate in SAR.

“If we need to bring this negotiation to the federal government, then please do so because the intention of the Sarawak government in setting up SCG is not to clash or find problems with foreign countries.

“Our goal is to help in the event of a disaster. Human life is important. That is why all these agencies must work hand-in-hand, together with the local communities or villages,” he said.

Abdul Karim expressed appreciation for the related agencies such as Maritim, Bomba and SCG’s effort and also asserted his earlier remarks were not meant to scold or reprimand any side.

He added that he finally knew why SCG could not be deployed for the SAR operation on the first day and therefore, he hoped that all the agencies involved would be able to cooperate.

On Oct 2, eight fishermen, a skipper and a crew member were reported missing after their fishing vessel capsized about two nautical miles off Pulau Satang Besar, Telaga Air. Nine of them were rescued alive while one is still missing.

On Oct 3, a second boat with five anglers was reported to have gone missing somewhere between Karang Berumput/Tukun Bass up to Tanjung Datu. They have yet to be found. — DayakDaily