Beefing up border security to curb the spread of Covid-19

Masing (4th left) chairing the Sarawak Border Security Committee meeting in Kuching today.

KUCHING, Jan 13: Sarawak will continue to beef up its border security with the acquisition of new assets in order to reduce the possibility of the spread of Covid-19 from illegal immigrants entering Sarawak, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.

“From the reports by the Medical Department of Sarawak, the police and the Immigration Department, about 70 per cent of Covid-19 related cases in Sarawak are imported cases,” said Masing after chairing the Sarawak Border Security Committee (SBSC) meeting here today.

He added that it was crucial for Sarawak to beef up its border security measures to curb the problem of smuggling at the border.

“This means that all the relevant enforcement agencies including the police, including the general operations force (GOF), army, Customs and Immigration departments need to carry out more operation work,” Masing stressed.

Masing, who is also the chairman of SBSC added that, in order to ensure the safety of the enforcement team as well as to facilitate smooth communication between the border and headquarters, a good communication network has to be in place.

“In remote border posts like Tapak Megah and Pandora, the main concern is more towards smuggling of goods or even drugs. And I suggest establishing ‘ConnectMe’ broadband facilities for these posts which are not reachable by other telecommunication means,” suggested Masing.

Masing who is also the Minister of Infrastructure and Port Development reiterated that until and unless border security is strengthened, it was almost impossible to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 infection.

Another area of vital concern is the issue of illegal immigrants entering Sarawak through the Lundu and Biawak borders.

“From there, they travel to different parts of the state like Sibu and Kuching in search of work. As such, we need to nail down the mastermind and the tekong in order to stop this infiltration of illegal immigrants, which I view as serious as human trafficking. That should speak volumes of the seriousness of the crime,” Masing said, adding that the punishment for such crime can amount to 20 years imprisonment term if found guilty.

He also assured that SBSC will work very closely with State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to assist in funding for the procurement of the necessary machinery and equipment for enforcers to ensure more aggressive monitoring at the border.

“This includes more aggressive patrol vehicles like scramblers, All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) as well as the use of high-capacity drones.

“On the part of SBSC, we will have weekly meetings starting this week to ensure updates are communicated and efforts by all agencies are coordinated and synchronized well,” he said.

Among those present were permanent secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Port Development Sarawak Datu Safri Zainudin, commissioner of Police Datuk Aidi Ismail, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, First Division of the Malaysian Infantry Brigadier General Datuk Azhar Ahmad, GOH commander SAC Mancha Ata and State Health director Dr Chin Zin Hing. -DayakDaily