Strong political will crucial to fortify security along Kalimantan border

Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing


By Peter Sibon

With the spike in Covid-19 cases, coupled with the increasing number of illegal immigrants (PATI) from Kalimantan, it is now clear at present that there is no more room for delay in tackling border intrusion from the neighbouring countries, especially from Indonesia.

The issue of border security in nothing new. There has been ample news and commentaries written about it.

There are also political calls from all sides to strengthen the border security especially along the more than 1,000 km of porous border with Kalimantan. However, and surprisingly, there is no drastic change on the ground.

Realising the real and present danger of Covid-19 which is currently in the upward trend, there is an urgent need for a stronger political will to put rhetoric into action.

The man who has been vocal to put the message across to strengthen the border with Kalimantan is none other than Tan Sri Dr James Masing, who is currently spearheading the taskforce of border security after he was appointed as the chairman of the State Border Security Committee (SBSC) after the Covid-19 was declared as a pandemic worldwide, with the country being put under lockdown since March 2010 under the Movement Control Order (MCO), followed by Restricted CMO and Control MCO.

Just a few days ago, Masing went to inspect the border at Telok Melano and Biawak’s customs, immigration and quarantine centre (CIQ) and found out that there are many illegal routes, the locals called jalan tikus and bigger ones called jalan gajah.

After he came back, he had recommended that there is an urgent need to further strengthen the porous border with drastic measures, including constructing fences and even walls at strategic locations along the border.

However, his recommendations backfired and heavy criticism came from the opposition and the NGOs alike that such an exercise was akin to former United States President Donald Trump’s policy of erecting walls along the United States and Mexican border, which critics said was too costly and unnecessary amidst the urgent need for more money to fight Covid-19 pandemic and to address financial woes.

“Now, let’s see what options do we have.

“Firstly, if we listen to the critics, then there is a high possibility of status quo to remain and we will be at the receiving end. Why, you may ask?

“Because, currently, there is a Border Regiment under the Armed Forces, but they are stationed in urban areas such as Sibu and Bintulu. Isn’t that an irony and defeat the purpose for its very formation as border regiment, which is supposed to man the porous border?

“We are not criticising for sake of criticising, but it’s a fact that the Border Regiment has not been effective enough in tackling the PATI issue.

Secondly, whenever the PATI and border issues are raised, calls are made by some individuals that there is a need to revive the Sarawak Rangers and the Border Scouts.

But, each time such an issue is raised, there is no political will to put into action and the necessary plan to address the real and present situation along the porous border.

Of course, besides Masing, there are other vocal leaders who called for an urgent need to strengthen the border including Serian MP Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem and PBB’s supreme council members Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and Datuk Idris Buang who are both former Border Scout high ranking officers.

Additionally, the media has also taken the issue seriously and continues to highlight the issue in both the print and online news portals.

But honestly, the question now is, will the government, especially the Federal Government has the political will to put into action the necessary measures to tackle border security issues in Sarawak?

Because judging from what Masing said, there is no doubt that his recommendations have fallen on deaf ears.

As such, he called for an urgent need to strengthen Sarawak’s border with three-pronged approaches, namely the construction of border highway; the urgent need to build fences or walls at strategic locations along the border and to establish border Special Task Force, such as the Sarawak Rangers.

And with the increasing daily reported of PATI being caught and the spike in Covid-19 in Sarawak, there is no more room for ‘no action but talk only’ but to put into action and solutions that is practical, affordable and effective in order to tackle the more than 70 identified illegal routes along the border. — DayakDaily