Stronger border security needed to curb infiltration of Covid-19 — Masing

Tan Sri James Masing

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, June 1: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing reiterates his call to beef up border security to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 infections in Sarawak which may slip in through the Sarawak-Kalimantan border in view of an expected spike in cases in Indonesia in June.

According to Masing, such a move would be killing two birds with one stone as it is inevitable that Sarawak will need to fortify its borders, following Indonesia’s plan to shift its capital to Kalimantan.

With the shared more than 1,000km-long porous border between Sarawak and Kalimantan, Masing feared there is a high possibility of illegal crossings without the knowledge of the government during this time as well as in the future when Indonesia relocates its capital.

Scarcity of food, according to Masing, is expected to be the main factor leading to illegal crossings during this time and stringent border surveillance is the answer to prevent such trespassing.

“This is what I fear most. This health pandemic when its peaks in Indonesia around June, will have disastrous impact on neighbouring nations including Sarawak.

“Our border posts need to be strengthened and guarded. Food scarcity may lead to them infiltrating Sarawak; even now we are transporting food to Kalimantan,” Masing told DayakDaily.

It has been reported that opting for economic stability, Indonesia from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, has played it down and was reluctant to take immediate and preventive steps to contain the virus.

Due to the lack of containment measures, it is thought that Indonesia has become the most hard-hit country in Southeast Asia. As of yesterday, there are 26,473 confirmed cases, 1,613 deaths and 7,308 recoveries.

Masing who also Sarawak’s Covid-19 Border Security Committee chairman revealed he had made the call to strengthen border security in April and following the call, some 876 security personnel have been deployed to the three Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complexes (CIQs), 20 ‘jalan gajah’ (smuggling routes big enough for vehicles to pass through) and 23 ‘jalan tikus’ (smaller illegal crossing trails) plus numerous entry points at Long Singut, Long Busang and Tapak Megah.

“I have called for a strengthening of border security and it has been done. However, I believe now we need to beef it up even further or we will see a second wave of Covid-19 returning to haunt us.

“At the moment, the Sarawak government has done well in preventing any imported cases. We need to keep it that way. As we are an island, it is easy for us to control entry from the air and the sea. Our only issue now is to control entry over land.

“We must beef up our security along the border further. This may be a blessing in disguise. With the shifting of the (Indonesian) capital from Java island to Kalimantan, it is inevitable that border security needs to be strengthened. We should start doing it now, so that by the time the shift is on its way, we are already well prepared for it.

“In this sense, we are killing two birds with one stone,” said Masing who is also Infrastructure and Port Development Minister. — DayakDaily