This news focus is the last of two series aimed at explaining the role of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) in addressing the problem illegal immigrants now seen as a threat to national security.
KUALA LUMPUR — The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) had stepped up vigilance at the islands in Sabah’s east coast following the kidnapping of Taiwanese tourists in Pulau Pom Pom in November 2013.
Despite of the heightened vigilance, on April 2, 2014, a group of seven armed men trespassed into Pulau Singgahmata and kidnapped a Chinese tourist, Gao Hua Yuan, 29, and a Filipino resort worker, Marcy Dayawan, 40.
Why did these kidnappings happened again in spite of the numerous efforts taken by Esscom to secure the national borders?
The authorities now believe it has to do with the people within the resorts, especially the illegal immigrant workers who are believed to be working hand in glove with the perpetrators.
These illegal immigrants working in the resorts are believed to be passing information on the security forces’ position and the tourists to the armed groups from their homeland.
Thus numerous operations have been launched to ensure only those with valid documents are employed by resort operators.
The biggest operation conducted in so far is the Ops Gasak, a six series joint operation involving the police, army, and the registration and immigration authorities.
Elaborating further on the matter, Esscom’s Director General Datuk Mohammad Mentek believed that the illegal immigrants working on the resorts pose serious threat to the safety of the tourist there.
“In the previous kidnap incidents, we believe insiders have relayed information on the position of the security forces to the perpetrators that enabled them to trespass easily the nation’s waters and commit kidnappings,” he told Bernama.
Following the recent incident, and effective 15 April 2104, Mohammad said all resort operators within the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) have to submit the employee list to Esscom every three days.
By this way Esscom can monitor the number of worker and their status.
RECALCITRANT RESORT OPERATORS
Resort operators prefer to employ foreigners as they are paid low salaries and moreover they could communicate in English, a boon for tourism.
Mohammad pointed out this is why resort operators within the ESSZONE were willing to take the risk by employing and sheltering the illegal immigrants.
“It’s regrettable that these operators hide the illegal immigrants in special bunkers during operations to weed out the illegal immigrants from the resorts,” he said adding that their recalcitrant attitude made enforcement difficult and the resorts vulnerable to threats from armed groups.
Resort operators who remain adamant in employing illegal immigrants would have to face the wrath of the law, under the Immigration Act, that provides a jail term up to five years and a RM10,000 fine of both.
Apart from this, Esscom has taken numerous initiatives that include requiring resort operators install CCTV and appoint permanent guards, yet some operators remain defiant and refuse to cooperate.
OPERATORS ONLY SEE MONEY, IGNORE SAFETY
Meanwhile, Sabah’s Immigration Director, Noor Alam Khan Abdul Wahid Khan noted that hitherto five resorts were found to employ illegal immigrants.
“Those irresponsible resort operators fail to report that they are employing illegal immigrants, yet we have to take the blame, but its is the operators who did not want to cooperate in the first place.
The department will continue working with Esscom to weed out the illegal immigrants within the resorts.
Noor Alam Khan noted that the Immigration Department conducted a census recently with ESSCOM at the water village in Semporna and would do the same in Sandakan and Lahad Datu.
The census will help in determining the number of villages, the people living there, families and the demographic profile of locals and foreigners there.
Noor Alam Khan noted that so far 42 illegal immigrants working in resort islands off Semporna, among others in Mabul, Kapalai, Pom Pom and Mataking, have been detained. In the latest Ops Gasak 6 in Kampung Labuan Haji in Semporna on April 10, 515 people including women and children without travel documents were detained for investigation, he added.– BERNAMA