SEMPORNA, (Feb 4) — Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun has warned the Pala’u community against allowing themselves to be exploited by certain parties to commit crimes, especially in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone).
He said the people of Pala’u or ‘Sea Bajaus’ were not exempted from legal action if they were found violating the country’s laws.
Abdul Rashid said their status as Pala’u people who lived on boats could not be an excuse for them to be exempted from enforcement.
“As such, I am advising them not to allow themselves to be exploited or to collude with enemies, especially cross-border criminals.
“I want to stress that stern action will be taken against anyone, including Pala’u people, who violates the country’s laws. No group is exempted,” he said when giving a briefing on security, in conjunction with an ESSCom meeting with Pala’u community leaders and Semporna district government officers at the district office building in Semporna, Wednesday.
Also present were ESSCom chief executive officer Ruji Ubi, Semporna District Officer Dr Chacho Bulah, ESSCom Intelligence Division deputy head Brig-Gen Datuk Rahim Mohamad and ESSCom Marine Police staff head, Wan Shazali Wan Abd Rahman.
Abdul Rashid said ESSCom seriously viewed allegations of involvement of a few Pala’u residents in unhealthy activities, including the smuggling of prohibited items and illegal immigrants which could threaten national security.
“Based on intelligence, we found Pala’u people have become the eyes and ears of enemies, by monitoring the movements of security forces, especially on islands around Semporna waters.
“This is something serious and ESSCom is closely monitoring the matter,” he said.
Following that, Abdul Rashid said ESSCom had proposed that several islands in Semporna be made prohibited areas for more effective security control.
On the ESSCom-led Special Integrated Operation to track down illegal immigrants, he said the operation would continue until ESSZone was free of illegal immigrants.
“The operation is currently conducted in the districts of Semporna, Lahad Datu, Tawau and soon in Sandakan,” he said, adding the operation was launched following a report of the Royal Commision of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants in Sabah.
Meanwhile, Ruji said that lately, there were elements linking a small group of Pala’u residents with criminal activities which could threaten national security.
“As such, ESSCom is engaging the people to assist, manage and correct the situation from the aspect of relocation and security,” he said.
In this regard, Ruji urged all parties, especially Pala’u community leaders to cooperate with ESSCom to combat the problem.
The Pala’u community are also known as ‘Sea Gypsies’ as they lead a nomadic way of life in the sea, a majority of whom live on boats. Most members of the community are found living in the waters around Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Sandakan.–BERNAMA