Tan suggests creating ‘Smart Wall’ via digital and high-technology

A file photo of Tan (centre) exchanging views with international researchers on recent developments in unmanned system (drone) and surveillance technology.

KUCHING, Jan 22: Former Stampin MP Julian Tan is unsupportive of the ‘walls or fences’ proposal to seal off Sarawak-Indonesia border, saying it is a 14th century solution that is wildly expensive, ineffective and impractical given the 1,032-km long border is covered by dense and uneven terrain.

Instead, he said that the Sarawak government should look into 21st century solutions using digital and high-technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data.

“Another great wall, another great wastage. How thick and how long is it going to be to fence up the whole 1,032km border with Kalimantan? A regular mesh fencing won’t cut it, not to mention the logistic nightmare of building the wall and the political message we are sending to Indonesia,” he said in a statement today.


Tan, who is also special assistant to Chong Chieng Jen, was commenting about Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Jemut Masing’s proposal to have walls or fences built at strategic places along the Sarawak-Indonesia border to curb the influx of illegal immigrants into Sarawak.

Masing had raised the need for walls or fences as there were no less than 70 ‘jalan tikus’ or ‘jalan gajah’ (illegal routes) which posed real challenges for Sarawak to seal the border with Kalimantan, even more so when Indonesia will shift its new capital to East Kalimantan in six years’ time.

Tan, however, opined that ‘The Great Wall’ idea was a misdirected effort, even for future and long-term solution, as Sarawak should first consider the technology, resources and talent available which can be enhanced with competent management and deployed immediately.

He suggested the ‘Smart Wall’ to create an invisible border equipped with electronic sensors, AI, geofencing and drone technology to not only ensure continuous success in guarding the border but it was also less politically controversial than a physical barrier.

“We can literally do technology for ‘pennies on the dollar’ as compared to a physical wall. Every single kilometre of the border is unique and requires a different level of security.

“A drone may be needed in a certain stretch of the border, while a ‘micro-ground radar’ may make sense in some. With technology, we can evolve and match those requirements to ensure continuous success in guarding the border,” he explained.

Tan, who is an aerospace and defence engineer and consultant, also stressed the need for effective information sharing including actionable intelligent data across agencies which can be done with IoT such as between Immigration Department and Police Department so that they have available information to act including making arrests.

He added that a multi intelligent (Multi-INT) command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C41SR) which serves as the ‘operation room’ should be set up to display all available intelligence data to enable forces to carry out their duties swiftly and accurately.

“Our forces can then understand the situation on the ground at a glance and provide actionable intelligence.

“Currently, intelligent or actionable ‘Big Data’ is not readily shared across agencies. The pooling of data enables AI to take over, which can process and consolidate relevant information into a human manageable solution. A task that is impossible for a human to perform,” he said.

And by getting homegrown technology companies involved, Tan emphasised that this can become a win-win solution to not only empower local technology companies and provide them the platform to go global but also retaining high-skilled human capital in Sarawak.

Tan, who is currently undertaking his postgraduate research specialising in drone technology, also proposed for the setting up of an integrity unit that can bite hard to carry out enforcement duties.

With Indonesia’s new capital moving to Kalimantan, Tan pressed that Sarawak should instead focus on growing its economy to become the upcoming economy powerhouse in the Borneo region.

“Sarawakians don’t need any more billions ringgit ‘castle in the air’ project. We need a tangible and practical solution to be a choice destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic direct investment (DDI). That is the key to achieve our vision of having a high-income state.

“As for now, let us come back to reality, businesses are closing with the pandemic. Even middle-class families are having difficulty in putting rice on the table.

“Let’s focus our thoughts and resources on addressing the immediate needs of Sarawakians.  Many will not be able to stretch through for another few more months, what more the whole year of 2021 as the pandemic seems to be getting worse and out of control,” he said. — DayakDaily