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By Peter Sibon
The vast no-man’s land along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border is so vast that in some areas, it is so porous that the locals called the illegal trails “jalan tikus” (rat trails) while some areas are even called “Jalan gajah”, literally means elephant trails.
The issue of illegal crossings along the border is nothing new for the local communities living along the border as they have relatives living on both sides. Before the formation of Malaysia, these communities have been crisscrossing the so-called border to visit their relatives whenever they wished, especially during family parties, weddings, festivals and funerals.
However, after the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963, many ethnic communities living along the border areas have to make their choices to either become Malaysian or Indonesian citizens.
Soon after that, the situation along the border worsened when the Indonesian regime under the then-president Sukarno made an aggression on the newly born-nation with their “konfrontasi” policy which lasted for two years from 1963 to 1965.
However, with the peace agreement achieved between both nations, the border issue soon subsided with greater G to G (government to government) engagements at the top level.
Over the years, however, the border issue has become more pertinent especially in areas where the “jalan tikus” and “jalan gajah” are rampant.
From Ba’Kelalan in the North, right down to Tanjung Datu in the South, “jalan tikus” and “jalan gajah” have been used for smuggling of contraband items such as liquor, cigarettes and even sugar and gas cylinders; human and drug trafficking.
And the worse thing is that “jalan tikus” and “jalan gajah” in upper Serian District has been identified as the entry point of rabid-animals which spread rabies into Sarawak back in 2017, which had claimed 28 lives.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a border security committee was set up by the Sarawak government to further strengthen border security with an additional 880 security personnel from both the army and General Operations Force (GOF).
Even then, there were reported cases of Covid-19 positive individuals who had managed to sneak over from Kalimantan to work in an oil palm plantation in Serian, again due to jalan tikus and jalan gajah in the locality.
Border security committee chairman Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing, who is acting Chairman of Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), had voiced his concerns several times to the media about the existence of these jalan tikus and jalan gajah which need a permanent solution.
As Minister of Infrastructure and Port Development, Masing even suggested that the government must have a border security road in order to curb illegal activities along the border. But to realise it, the government has to come up with a whopping RM24 billion to implement the road project to solve illegal entry and the issue of porous borders in the state.
Few days ago, Serian MP Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem also highlighted the matter in Parliament of the need to boost border security personnel at Bunan Gega GOF post and an urgent need to establish a permanent post at Kampung Mongkos to provide better proximity for the security forces to man the illegal routes.
Kampung Mongkos, which is about 20-minute drive from Bunan Gega, is one of the major jalan gajah in Serian district whereby the locals have been using it to visit their relatives in Kalimantan and vice versa.
Additionally, along the stretch of border line between Kampung Mongkos and the Tebedu customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) complex, there are so many illegal routes that must also be monitored at all times.
This is where the Malaysian government must take border security issue along the more than 1,000km Sarawak-Kalimantan border very seriously.
Time is now of the essence especially with the decision of the Indonesian government to relocate its capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan.
With this in mind, a more systematic approach must be enforced along the porous border to curb illegal crossings, smuggling activities and crimes before a permanent solution is found and enforced, less with forget about the foreign paramilitary invasion in Lahad Datu not too long ago. – DayakDaily