Government Plans to Recalibrate Undocumented Immigrants

Dato’ Seri Hamzah Zainuddin (right) with Datuk Seri M Saravanan

IN light of the difficulties in obtaining manpower by employers in this pandemic era, the government has announced a programme to recalibrate undocumented immigrants in order to make them legal for employment.

This was announced by the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin at his Ministry yesterday, after a meeting with the Minister for Human Resources Datuk Seri M Saravanan.

The recalibration programme that will be implemented from Nov 16 2020 through June 30 2021, will consist of two components; one which allows undocumented immigrants to register themselves to be employed in the four 3-D (Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult) sectors namely construction, manufacturing, plantation and agriculture, while the other allows them to return to their respective countries.

When asked about the difference compared to the previous amnesty programmes Hamzah stressed that this programme does not involve third-party vendors. 

“All undocumented immigrants in this country who wish to participate in either component must register themselves directly with the Peninsular Malaysia’s Department of Human Resources. If they and their employers meet the pre-requisites, then they will be allowed to work,” he explained.

The government expects to collect RM90 million from compounds and fines through this recalibration programme.  

Only undocumented immigrants from the 15 countries listed as allowed to be employed, who are already in Malaysia may participate in this programme.  

There are about 20,000 undocumented immigrants being held at the immigration detention centres.

This move would definitely help the industries mentioned above.  Early July,  Malaysian Employers Federation Executive Director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the plantation sector might lose RM142 billion in their operations this year due to a shortage of workers, while shortage of workers in the agriculture sector would lead to an increase in the price of vegetables.

Although both the Home Affairs and Human Resources Ministries have said that employers interested in the recalibration programme will have to abide by a certain ratio of foreign versus local worker limit that is to be set, it is interesting to see how many Malaysians would actually be interested in the 3-D jobs.

When the Selayang wholesale market faced a shortage of foreign workers a few months ago due to the area coming under the Enhanced Controlled Movement Order, there was a lukewarm response by Malaysians to fill in the vacancies.

Datuk Shamsuddin explained that this was not just about the wages offered. 

Although Malaysians earn double that of their foreign counterparts, the former are not used to working in such environments.

“Locals are not keen on staying long in these kinds of jobs.  They need to be brave and strengthen their attitude towards working less favourable jobs and should treat all jobs with respect.”

His main worry is that once the economy improves, the Malaysians would not want to stay in those 3-D sectors.  Therefore, Malaysia will always have that reliance on foreign workers.

Malaysians are, of course, sceptical about any such programme.  Previous amnesty programmes, especially those run by third-party vendors have always been open to abuse.  

Despite having the 6P amnesty programme in 2011, the number of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, increased by 1.013 million between 2010 and 2019.

To allay this fear, Hamzah said that the wages that are to be paid to the legalised immigrants under this recalibration scheme will only be done electronically (e-Wages).

“When there is no money being deposited by the employer, then we will know that they are no longer being employed.  It would be easier for us to track them down.”

Any employer caught employing an undocumented immigrant after June 30 2021 will be fined RM50,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months per worker. If they are caught with five or more undocumented worker, the penalty shall include whipping.

(This article first appeared on The Mole )

Sabah 20-Point Agreement: Religion

Colonial passport for the colonised people of North Borneo

For the previous installment on the background, please click here.

In his book on Page 101, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan wrote that although there is no objection to Islam being the religion of the Federation there should not be a STATE RELIGION in North Borneo.  Therefore, anything pertaining to Islam in the MALAYAN CONSTITUTION cannot be applied to NORTH BORNEO.

His grouse on this matter came about as a result of the late Tun Datu Mustapha expelling Christian priests from Sabah and accused both Tun Datu Mustapha and Datuk Harris Salleh of acting in such manner to strengthen their political position with the Federal government, therefore Islam should not be the religion of the state of Sabah.

The above controversial statement goes against the agreements reached as recorded by the Cobbold Commission, the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC) , and the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) in 1962.

According to the memorandum of the MSCC that was chaired by Donald A Stephens (later Chief Minister of Sabah, Tun Fuad Stephens) with representatives from Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo, the MSCC found that the acceptance of Islam as the religion of the Federation does not endanger religious freedom as evident on Page 120 of the MSCC memorandum dated 3 February 1962:

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120

The MSCC had scrutinised the position of Islam in respect of states other than the Malay States and found no objection was made against the then-present arrangement for Pulau Pinang and Melaka to also be adopted by North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore.

Each of the states above would have its own constitution to address the requirement with Yang DiPertuan Agong as the Head of Islam in those states.  The respective State’s Assembly will enact laws to govern Islamic affairs and form a Board to advise the Yang DiPertuan Agong on matters pertaining to Islam.

On pages 120 and 121 of the memorandum mentioned it is stated so:

 

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120-121

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120-121

In the Report of the Commission of Enquiry (Cobbold Commission), North Borneo and Sarawak, dated 21st June 1962 found that there was everywhere agreement that as the Muslims are minorities in North Borneo and Sarawak, there should be no restrictions on complete freedom of other religions in those states.

Cobbold Commission Report dated 21 June 1962 PP 39

Cobbold Commission Report dated 21 June 1962 PP 39

In relation to that, the Inter-Governmental Committee, headed by Lord Landsdowne produced a report in 1962 and made the following recommendations on religion on Pages 5 and 6 which have been passed by the Sabah (and Sarawak) state assembly as follows:

IGC Report 1962 on Religion PP 5-6

IGC Report 1962 on Religion PP 5-6

The IGC, which has representation from the Federation of Malaya representing the states in the Federation, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak, recommended that Article 3 needed no amendment.  However, the provision of financial aid to Muslim establishments should only come with the concurrence of the states of North Borneo and Sarawak.  This has since been provided for via Section 3 of the Sabah Islamic Laws Administration Enactment, 1992 where the Yang DiPertuan Agong is the Head of Islam in Sabah, and a Council (Majlis Agama Islam Sabah) was formed to manage and administer the Islamic affairs in Sabah. This has also been provided in the Sabah State Constitution (Articles 5B(1) and 5B(2)).

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan was angered by Tun Datu Mustapha’s action to chase out Christian missionaries from Sabah in 11972.  Dr Jeffrey used this as the basis of raising the religion issue that was presented as part of the 20-point memorandum for the inclusion of Sabah into the Federation of Malaysia.

Having understood the reason for his raising the issue again, we must also understand the events that had taken place after Tun Datu Mustapha’s ousting of the Christian missionaries.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) won the state elections and formed the Sabah state government in 1985.  From that point up until 1991, the Sabah state government built 825 churches compared to only 216 suraus and mosques.

The state government’s refusal to entertain a request by the Sabah Islamic Council made on the 2nd August 1986 and again on the 12th August 1986 to amend the state’s Shariah Law (Administration) Enactment No.15/77 to accord to the Yang DiPertuan Agong the power to administer Islam in the state of Sabah as required by Article 3(3) of the Federal Constitution (as amended on the 12th August 1976) and Article 5B of the Sabah State Constitution (as amended on the 28th December 1985) clearly denied the Yang DiPertuan Agong His Majesty’s prerogative that was agreed by the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Council, the findings of the Cobbold Commission as well as the Inter-Governmental Committee, and the wishes made by the Muslims of North Borneo in 1962.

The ousting of the Christian missionaries in 1972 was made because the nine missionaries who were foreigners abused the work permit given to them to work in Sabah, not to conduct evagelical missions.  They were Roman Catholics, Anglicans, the Basil Mission and from the Borneo Evangelical Mission.

As Immigration affairs is a Sabah prerogative as accorded in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, the first act by the Sabah state government under Tun Datu Mustapha was to deny them an extension of their work permit.  They were then given a 14-day special pass to enable them to make arrangements to leave Sabah.  However, the missionaries refused to obey the 13-day order.

Consequently, they were removed from Sabah through a Removal Order issued by the Sabah Immigration Department made under Section 32 of the Immigration Ordinance 12/59.

The Federal government had no role whatsoever in the removal of these missionaries.  It was purely a state decision that was made based on a sound reason – the people of Sabah, regardless of race or religion had been living harmoniously.  However, these missionaries have been sowing the seeds of hatred among the Christians of Sabah towards the Muslims by telling them to fear the “Islamisation” of Christians through forced conversions, a claim the missionaries themselves could not substatiate.

There was a plea made by the Christians in Sabah to the then-Prime Minister for the missionaries to be allowed to remain in Sabah.  Tun Abdul Razak however recommended to the Christians of Sabah to instead allow priests from the Peninsular and Sarawak to replace the nine missionaries.

In his book, Jeffrey Kitingan had profusely spoken about alleged digressions from and breach of the Federation of Malaysia Agreement but avoided on the issue of the Sabah state government of 1985 breaching agreements made by the MSCC, findings of the Cobbold Commission, the IGC as well as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

On the contrary, the Federal government has been fulfilling its end of the agreement by allowing the freedom for other religions to be practiced by its followers as per the agreement.

At no point was there any intrusion made by the Federal government in the affairs of Sabah, and that the removal of the missionaries from Sabah for violating the conditions of the work permit was totally a state issue, made using the powers accorded to the state of Sabah, as agreed by all parties that had agreed on the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

In the next installement, we shall talk about the second point – LANGUAGE.

ESSCOM: The Toothless Cookie Monster

Just before midnight on Sunday, 4th May 2014, four heavily armed men dressed in army fatigues robbed four fishermen of their boat engines off Tanjung Labian, the scene of last year’s bloody incursion by armed Filipino men.  Around 2.45am on Tuesday, 6th May 2014, just 51 hours after Sunday’s incident, five armed men also dressed in army fatigues kidnapped Chinese national, Yang Zai Lin from his fish farm on Pulau Baik south west of Lahad Datu.  The Marine Police sent two fast patrol craft, a PA-class and a PSC-class, to intercept the boat the armed men used. There was an exchange of gunfire between them near Pulau Mataking but the armed men evaded capture in international waters after reaching the Sibutu islands, some 10 nautical miles from Mataking, quoting the Sabah Police Commissioner, Datuk Hamza Taib in The Star newspaper.

I cannot but agree with Kalabakan MP, Datuk Ghapur Salleh who was quoted to have said the following:

““Esscom is a toothless tiger. They have no command of the police or the army. It is better to get someone who has power.”

For those who have never been to that part of the world, let me first orientate you on the landscape.

Map showing Lahad Datu and Pulau Baik
Map showing Lahad Datu and Pulau Baik

As you can see in the map above, Pulau Baik (where the incident took place) is at the bottom left of the map, definitely more than 30 nautical miles away from Lahad Datu.

A map showing Lahad Datu, Semporna, and their proximity to the Sibutu islands of the Philippines
A map showing Lahad Datu, Semporna, and their proximity to the Sibutu islands of the Philippines

The distance between Pulau Baik and the fringe of the Sibutu islands is approximately 50 nautical miles. In calm seas and in a really fast boat, it should take an hour from Pulau Baik to the Philippines.

Mataking island and its proximity to the Sibutu islands
Mataking island and its proximity to the Sibutu islands

The distance between Mataking and the Sibutu islands is around 8 nautical miles.

Looking at the landscape, it would be erroneous to treat the whole area like any other borders that Malaysia has with its neighbours.  And appointing a civilian to head trans-border armed incursions is downright negligence.

The marine police dispatched two patrol craft to intercept the armed intruders but stopped once the armed men were in their territorial waters for reasons only known to them.  This morning’s incident is the third cross-border kidnapping incident in the areas controlled by ESSCOM.

The two fast patrol craft sent to intercept the armed men are very fast ones indeed (see photos below).  Why they stopped once the armed men crossed into Filipino-waters puzzles me.  I do not know how well read the people running ESSCOM are, but maybe they only read certain parts of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) such as Paragraph 3 of Article 111 of the Convention that states the following:

The right of hot pursuit ceases as soon as the ship pursued enters  the territorial sea of its own State or of a third State.

Perhaps, Paragraph 2 of the same Article should have been read too! It says:

The right of hot pursuit shall apply mutatis mutandis to violations  in the exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf, including  safety zones around continental shelf installations, of the laws and  regulations of the coastal State applicable in accordance with this  Convention to the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf,  including such safety zones.

In this case, in fulfilling with Article 98 of UNCLOS, a breach by our patrol craft into the waters of the Philippines would have been a technical breach, with mutatis mutandis applied, based on an agreement between the Philippines (then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Carlos P Romulo) with Indonesia and Malaysia in July 1977 allowing cross-border hot pursuits and a system for families to cross the borders, while Article 100 of UNCLOS empowers the Philippines to allow that arrangement to be in place.

A Royal Malaysian Police's PA-class patrol craft
A Royal Malaysian Police’s PA-class patrol craft

With regards to this, the former Chief of Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Ramlan Mohamed Ali RMN, proposed in 2000 (after the first kidnappings in Sipadan) specific designated sea routes for vessels to enter Sabah, and enhancing monitoring capabilities by installing surface search radars (Project 1206) on islands off Sabah.  This was proposed in a meeting with the then-Chief Minister of Sabah, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.  This proposal would have enhanced security in Sabah, especially in areas now under the jurisdiction of the ESSCOM.  However, when Chong Kah Kiat was replaced in 2003, the proposal was mostly forgotten.

Kidnapping for ransom in an area that had seen the death of several Malaysian servicemen defending the nation and later sworn to be defended from further incursions by armed Filipino men is unacceptable.  Three kidnappings involving four hostages in a span of six months is disgusting.  I am not sorry for standing by my opinion that the ESSCOM should not be headed by a civilian.  ESSCOM, in my opinion, is not RASCOM. Although the RASCOM (Rajang Security Command) was set up by the National Security Council in 1972 to combat communist insurgency by the Kalimantan Utara People’s Party (PARAKU) chiefly in Sibu, Sarikei, Kapit and Mukah areas.  There was not much cross-border incidents as the terrorists were mainly domestic, unlike in Eastern Sabah.  In the ESSCOM area, the security forces struggle to deny people from the Philippines from landing in Sabah for both economic and malicious reasons. No matter how developed the ESSCOM areas may be, you will still get Filipinos who would do anything in Sabah for personal gains.  The gold that can be found in Sabah is worth risking their life for, and there are tens of thousands just 50 nautical miles away who are willing to take that risk once in a while, group by group.

A Royal Malaysian Police's PSC-class fast interceptor similar to the one involved in the shootout near Mataking
A Royal Malaysian Police’s PSC-class fast interceptor similar to the one involved in the shootout near Mataking

If you look again at the maps above, both kidnappings took place on islands very close to the mainland.  This did not happen on the peripheral islands such as Mataking, Mantabuan, Boheydulang or even Timba-Timba.  It is a well-known fact that our waters in Eastern Sabah are very porous in nature.  I however suspect that the kidnappings were executed by people on the way back to Sibuti from either the Lahad Datu or Semporna areas.

Last month, I was in Eastern Sabah and managed to speak to a few personnel involved in guarding the islands in that area.  What I noticed different this time is that even the Army no longer has its Rover RHIB interceptors stationed on the islands of Siamil and Sipadan.  In the course of a week I was in that area, five fish-bombing incidents took place in Siamil alone and there was nothing the Army could do about it as they did not have a boat to pursue the perpetrators.  Red tapes caused by the formation of ESSCOM has slowed down procurement processes.  I was also told by senior operations people on the mainland that they are even frustrated by the Director-General of ESSCOM for rejecting the military’s need to conduct clandestine operations in Lahad Datu and Semporna to flush out suspected sleepers (as I would term them).  This clearly shows the lack of understanding by the DG of ESSCOM of military operations, and certainly of creating ESSCOM without giving due respect for defining its raison d’être with clarity and utmost conviction.  You cannot run an agency that fights trans-border armed intruders like a government department. You are bound to fail miserably.

An Army personnel stands guard at Siamil island and can only watch boats go by
An Army personnel stands guard at Siamil island and can only watch boats go by

As mentioned in a blog post of mine that I wrote last year, Defence-in-Depth is the method that should and must be employed in Eastern Sabah.  The first layer would have to be that of Force Projection – a term used to describe a nation’s ability to project power and exert influence in the ESSCOM area.  This has to be achievable and has to be sustainable in nature.  Firstly, all cross-border family members need to have their boats registered and each boat is assigned with a registration number that is stored into a database that can be easily accessed by patrol crafts, surface and aerial combat units.  These registration numbers must be displayed on the bow of their pump boat. They can only enter via the designated routes that Admiral Ramlan proposed back in 2002. We have many shallow reefs in that area and manned stations or posts can be built where each boat wanting to enter will have to report to first layer posts to register their intention.  Once their destination is made known, they will be issued with a colour-coded pass that they need to surrender at the second-layer post which would be at their destination.  The process is reversed when they want to return to the Philippines.  These first layer posts should be manned by the equivalent of an infantry section with RHIB interceptors at hand to intercept violators.  Each of these posts would also house surface search radars that transmits radar data to a sectoral command center.  Radar picket vessels should be on station to cover the approaches to and from Eastern Sabah and should cover all 1400 kilometers stretch.  This is where the two of the Principles of War come into play: the Concentration of Force, and Economy of Effort. Obviously, based on my observations at Siamil and Sipadan, the Angkatan Tugas Bersama 2 (ATB2) is ill-equipped to carry out such tasks.

Basing of assets also need to be considered.  While it is good to have major surface units such as the navy’s NGPV to be on station, these vessels are limited in endurance unless supply vessels are also available to re-supply and re-fuel.  These vessels need to be on-station for weeks before they can be replaced by another surface unit.  Major islands along the approaches from the outer limits all the way in should also have combat helicopters stationed on them.  Combat helicopters carrying two PASKAL snipers each can be airborne in under ten minutes to intercept armed intruders.  Certainly in the incident early this morning, the availability of such asset would have helped prevent the kidnappers from seeking refuge in their own territory.  Auxiliary ships, perhaps smaller versions of the Bunga Mas 5 and Bunga Mas 6 operated by the Navy with the assistance from MISC need to be employed in these areas to support operations.

Good intelligence is important.  There is nothing as valuable as good intelligence.  More often than not, even during the February 2013 incursion that led to the Ops Daulat, intelligence played an important role.  The coordination of good intelligence is equally important but I was told that such a thing does not exist under ESSCOM.  Valuable intelligence remain valuable only if they are acted upon in the quickest possible time, thus commanders need to have a good grasp of strategic and tactical knowledge that their Decision-Action tempo has to overcome that of the enemy they are fighting.  However as it is, the soldiers on Siamil and Sipadan can only watch if intruders sail past them at a safe distance.

On land, villages that may be used as hiding places for sleepers and intruders should be relocated at new villages and that would make effective the Chief Minister’s plan to introduce curfew in high risk areas.  Cutting off the locals from the intruders would also help in identifying them and distinguishing them from locals.  This is the area Mentek should be concentrating on as an Immigration officer and as an act for the Sabah people – weed out the illegals.

Of course, diplomacy has to be one of the layers of defence-in-depth.  In pursuant of Article 100 of UNCLOS, the Philippines must render all assistance in the repression of piracy as well as in upholding the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea (SUA) that came into force in 2005.

Ops Daulat was not the first time that we have had armed incursions. on the 25th September 1985, 21 armed intruders dressed in Army fatigues attacked Lahad Datu town at 12 noon.  The Royal Malaysian Police’s patrol boats PX29 and PX16, later supported by PZ14 cornered the intruders at Mataking and decimated them.  While in pursuit, the marine policemen received an order from the then-Sabah Commissioner of Police to “not allow the pirates to live.”  Such was the statement of the aim, clearly defined, and that order determined the outcome of the battle.

Eastern Sabah is not just any security zone.  It is a zone that faces members of battle-hardened paramilitary groups that have been fighting the Government of the Philippines since the late 1960s.  Therefore, protecting this zone means having to conduct military-like operations that should be handled by professional combatants and not by civilians.  If the statement of aim of the strategy is to deny incursions, then it would have to be conducted with resolve and not through half-baked approaches or emulating other security zones whose methods are peculiar only to those areas, but not in areas managed by ESSCOM.

Leave defence of the nation to the professionals!

ESSCOM’s Failure: Who To Blame?

20140404-195043.jpg

If you think it is disgusting that armed men believed to be from the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf could infiltrate our borders of the east coast of Sabah last November, shoot dead a tourist from Taiwan and kidnapped his wife, then again a few days ago taking a tourist from China and a resort worker away, guess what is even more disgusting? That the man above, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, had the cheek to say the following (as quoted by The Star:

20140404-200102.jpg

Who are we to blame then, Wan Junaidi?

May I remind the Deputy Minister that ESSCOM was created on 7th March 2013 to ensure the security of the ESSZONE is taken care of in a holistic manner so there would be no recurrence of the Lahad Datu incursion and of other similar incidents. Maybe I can provide the Deputy Minister with a statement by the Prime Minister on Police Day 2013 that was posted on ESSCOM’s website.

20140404-200958.jpg

ESSCOM is an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department to undertake the enhancement of security in the ESSZONE defined as 10 districts from Kudat to Tawau spanning 1,733.7 kilometers, to prevent recurrence of any form of intrusion by unwanted foreign elements.  The method that should be employed to affect this is by applying the Defence-in-Depth concept that I wrote about in March of 2013 when ESSCOM was first formed.  The military has worked with the police in a support role on numerous occasions starting with the First and Second Emergencies of 1948-1960 and 1968-1989 periods respectively, in various UN missions such as to Cambodia, Liberia, and Timor Leste. The military also supported the operations conducted by the police in Ops Daulat last year, and since then the military and police have conducted basic recruit training jointly at the Army Recruit Training Centre in Port Dickson to enhance better understanding between the two.  Therefore, the issue of one not being able to accept orders by the other does not arise.  In any case in peacetime, the command of the police prevails and the military plays a supporting role, and this has always been case.  The Immigration however, does not have any experience in operational security as they only act as filters to immigration, and not experienced nor trained in deploying combat assets.  It is no secret that the southern Filipinos have no respect nor fear for our Immigration Department. They only fear our police and the military.

I don’t subscribe to Wan Junaidi’s remark that the resorts should close down. They have been in existence even before the formation of ESSCOM. They are still located within our littoral zones. Should they not be protected? Should there not be security forces stationed at these resorts as there is on Mataking, Mabul, Sipadan, SiAmil and other islands?  If the resort owners do not cooperate, what is the problem? Who makes the policies? Can’t action be taken against resort owners who do not respect policies? Stop giving stupid excuses, Wan Junaidi, and start behaving like a Deputy Minister.  If ESSCOM cannot even get the buy-in because it does not have the will to enforce and execute policies, it should be disbanded and leave it to the police and military to run an enhanced version of Ops PASIR. The Immigration Department should just go back to stamping passports and weed out illegal immigrants.

So, who is to be blamed, Wan Junaidi?  Who is to be blamed for appointing a non-combatant to take charge of a combat situation? Who is to be blamed if as a result of the appointment two armed incursions have taken place resulting in the kidnapping of three people and the death of one?  I will blame Wan Junaidi for making stupid statements, one after another, and blame the government for making him a Deputy Minister.

ESSCOM ERROR

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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.