When the government announced the formation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), I said to myself, “About bloody time!”. I imagined security sectors formed from Kudat to Sandakan to Lahad Datu to Semporna and Tawau, mirroring what we used to have along the Malaysian-Thai border during the Communist insurgency such as Kota Alfa, Kota Bravo, Kota Charlie and Kota Delta spanning Kuala Perlis to Tumpat. The initial aim was to combat the communist guerrillas and stopping their infiltration from Southern Thailand. After the treaty in December 1989, we had elements of the Unit Pencegahan Penyeludupan (UPP) or the Anti-Smuggling Unit operating in these areas in a supporting role, to curb the smuggling of contrabands and also human trafficking.

Instead, I find it rather amusing when the Ketua Setiausaha Negara announced that Datuk Mohammad Mentek has been appointed as the Director of ESSCOM effective April 1st. What is wrong with this appointment? Mohammad Mentek is the Director of Immigration for the state of Sabah, the agency that, in my opinion, has failed badly in curbing the in-flow of illegal Filipino and Indonesian immigrants into that state.

The New Straits Times ran a story on Mohammad Mentek’s appointment and a statement by the KSN that was complemented by Mohammad’s curriculum vitae; citing even that Mohammad would be very experienced in the field of security and public order.

This April 1st appointment has to be an April’s Fool joke with an extremely bad taste. Surely the KSN should know the functions of the Immigration Department like the back of his hand. If I may provide a memory-jogger for all, the. immigration Department’s functions are:

  • 1. Issuing of passports and travel documents to Malaysian Citizens and Permanent Residents.

    2. Issuing of visas, passes and permits to Foreign Nationals entering Malaysia.

    3. Administering and managing the movement of people at authorised entry and exit points.

    4. Enforcing the Immigration Act 1959/63, Immigration Regulations 1963 and Passport Act 1966.

  • If you think I made the above up, read it here. How much of an expert do you think the Sabah Director of Immigration would be in the field of counter-insurgency warfare, joint-command operations and public order? Other than the pen being mightier than the sword, I doubt if the person’s handled anything more than the butter knife, let alone deploy battalions of soldiers and policemen in combat situations.

    This is another example of the government missing out on a good opportunity to make things better. Obviously, the main concern when we talk about Sabah right now is its defence from foreign elements. With the heavy presence of our security forces there, we can only see illegal immigrants returning to their homeland, and not the other way round. Therefore, the government should have had a clear aim (again, quoting from the Principles of WAR) in ensuring its strategies in making Sabah more secure conform to this aim. A concept called Defence-in-Depth should have been adopted instead where the Army and Police’s General Operations Force occupy the peripheral islands off Sabah, as being done in Ops PASIR, supported by the Navy, Marine Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. These are the front-liners that will be meeting armed militants head-on. Onshore, defence and security should be effected by the Army and Police. The Immigration Department will just stick to its supporting role, weeding out illegal immigrants.

    Therefore, in my opinion, the ESSCOM should be jointly-directed by the Deputy Commander of the Army’s 1st Division, one of the deputies of the Commissioner of Police, Sabah, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s Head of Regional Enforcement for Sabah and Labuan. The reason is because they are in-charge of the combat and combat-capable units operating in this region, not the Immigration.

    In conclusion, the choice of the Director of Immigration for Sabah as the Director for ESSCOM is a grave mistake. I respect the person for who he is, but if the government wants to be seen serious in protecting the Malaysians in the state of Sabah, leave the job to the professionals. Not someone who holds a Master of Science (Statistics) degree and a Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) degree from the University of Minnesota, United States.

    11 Replies to “ESSCOM ERROR”

    1. I’m tempted to wolfram-alpha the probability of that someone with “Master of Science (Statistics) degree” and a “Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) degree” from the University of Minnesota, United States, can seriously kick ass..

    2. I do agree with you Sir, being a veteren and have vast expereince in military/security affair. But I beg to differ on you second last para. ESSCOM’s objectives and TOR are not solely focusing on military aspect. It has a wider approach, for security is not depending on military might only. Based on my reading, ESSCOM’s functions and objectives is quite similar with RASCOM. RASCOM was headed by senior administrative officer from Sarawak government as CEO assisted by Principal Staff Officer (PSO) Civil, PSO Military and PSO Police. I believe I dont have to tell you the sucessful of RASCOM as I’m still green when you served the country Sir.

      In my opinion, the security and military matter should/must be handled by the profesional (i.e the uniformed agencies) and let the administrative as a whole handled by the administrator. The way I look at the ESSCOM is like a state and the CEO is the PM and Kumpulan Kerja is the cabinet that will give advice to the CEO.


    3. good stuff there. but to be honest our country really need someone like you who can coordinate within a day. frankly speaking, I’m quite surprise to see all these comments made by..erm.. i don’t know your background perhaps in Phd (political and strategic management??). hahah it was funny to see how us Malaysian keep on pouring comments like we know every single thing happen here. each person has their own capabilities and knowledge my dear. at least he did his master there. and i did my phd there. my american friends give me this link and start asking me..(are these guys making fun of their own people, more or less like us American, i thought these people are quite humble and good in communicating with others).. where should i put my face?? people like us should stop oppressing our government or our leaders. I’m not surprise people start attacking the GD because he done a good job. try to be in his shoes. and those politicians are made at him because he is a sincere man that didn’t take any money from other. if you have a free time, why don’t you go to their cabin located in Lahad Datu? i even asked my professors and other intellectual persons here, we are in a good shape, but we will collapse if we keep on making out of fool of out leaders and countries. can you really do a great job? can the uniforms agencies be the leader? why can’t? because police can’t be under military and military can’t be under police. this will result in conflicts. can you handle this situation?thats why person in public administration need to be the one in charge. frankly speaking i don’t think you can manage to do that as people like us only know how to make noise. thats why on the first place, God didn’t put us as the LEADER. because He knows better. not you and me. bless us Malaysian.

      1. My background? I was a military officer decorated twice by the Agong for my service and sacrfices. I wrote this piece last year when ESSCOM was formed and yes I have been to Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna to look at the conditions and spoke to the personnel including the Navy and Police who are there protecting the ESSZONE.

        What you may have missed out is that the military has worked well serving in support of the police during the First and Second Emergencies (1948-1960 and 1968-1989), worked together in Cambodia under UNTAC, Liberia under UNIFIL and in Timor Leste. The military was also in support of the police during the Lahad Datu incident and police and military recruits train together in Port Dickson at the Army Recruit Training Centre.

        Two kidnapping cases with one death is certainly against the principle the ESSCOM was for, and it is atrocious the way it is being run. I get complaints by our security forces who stopped immigrants from coming in only to be allowed by the civilian departments.

        ESSCOM has failed its very purpose of existence.

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