Maritim Malaysia: Meredah Ombak Yang Mencabar

KM Bagan Datuk – salah sebuah aset Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM) yang memelihara kedaulatan negara tanpa mengira cabaran yang dihadapi

Seramai 24 orang pendatang asing tanpa izin (PATI) ditahan di Teluk Ramunia. Seorang nelayan hilang dan ditemui mati di perairan Kudat, Sabah. Belum sampai penghujung bulan, sejak 1 November 2020 hingga semalam, sebanyak 173 bot nelayan asing (BNA) dari Indonesia telah diusir oleh Maritim Malaysia negeri Perak berhampiran Pulau Jarak. Sebuah kapal Pengawal Pantai China (CCG) Zhongguo Haijing 5402 telah mengganggu sebuah kapal penggerudian minyak serta kapal-kapal bekalannya hanya 44 batu nautika dari pesisir pantai negeri Sarawak. Tiga orang anggota Pasukan Gerakan Am (PGA) Polis DiRaja Malaysia ditembak oleh kumpulan penyeludup dalam dua insiden di sempadan Thai mengakibatkan seorang anggota berpangkat Koperal maut.

Demikianlah rangkuman insiden-insiden diperbatasan yang telah dilaporkan dalam tempoh seminggu ini. Insiden-insiden ini merupakan di antara cabaran-cabaran yang dihadapi oleh agensi-agensi kerajaan terutamanya APMM dalam menentukan sempadan perairan, kedaulatan negara, serta keselamatan komuniti di laut adalah selamat.

Turut berada di perbatasan perairan negara ialah Kapal Maritim Bagan Datuk serta 29 orang anak kapalnya yang dinakhodai oleh Leftenan Komander (Maritim) Nik Mohd Rizam bin Nik Mohd Fauzi, yang meronda di Sektor 6, Selat Melaka. KM Bagan Datuk disokong oleh bot-bot pemintas dari Maritim Negeri Melaka & Negeri Sembilan. Kapal ronda generasi baru sepanjang 45 meter yang ditauliahkan pada 15 Mac 2017 bertindak sebagai kapal induk untuk operasi-operasi pemintasan yang dilakukan oleh bot-bot pemintas di sektor tersebut.

Kehadiran BNA Indonesia di perairan Pulau Jarak bukanlah sesuatu yang boleh dipandang ringan dan remeh oleh umum. Sekiranya dibiarkan atas sebab budi-bicara ataupun atas dasar jiran-tetangga, ianya boleh menjejaskan kedaulatan negara. Kita ambil contoh tuntutan Malaysia dan Singapura ke atas Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca) di mana Perjanjian Inggeris-Belanda, 1824 menamatkan kerajaan Johor-Pahang-Riau-Linggi. Di bawah Perkara XII perjanjian tersebut, tidak ada satu pun pertubuhan British dibenarkan di atas pulau-pulau Karimun, Batam, Bintan, Lingga dan pulau-pulau ke selatan Singapura, manakala pulau-pulau serta batuan-batuan di dalam Selat Singapura menjadi milik kerajaan Kesultanan Johor yang baharu.

Sebuah rumah api didirikan oleh Syarikat Hindia-Timur British (HEIC) di Pulau Batu Putih dalam bulan Jun 1850 dan mula beroperasi pada 15 Oktober 1851. Ianya dioperasikan oleh Lembaga Pelabuhan Singapura yang menjadi sebahagian dari Malaysia. Namun, apabila Singapura dikeluarkan daripada Persekutuan Malaysia pada 9 Ogos 1965, tiada sebarang tindakan diambil oleh pihak kerajaan Malaysia untuk mengoperasikan rumah api tersebut.

Hanya apabila pada 21 Disember 1979 Pengarah Pemetaan Malaysia keluarkan sebuah peta yang menunjukkan Pulau Batu Putih sebagai hakmilik Malaysia, kerajaan Singapura keluarkan bantahan. Mahkamah Keadilan Antarabangsa (ICJ) memutuskan walaupun Kesultanan Johor memiliki Pulau Batu Putih, Batuan Tengah dan Batuan Selatan, namun tidak ada mana-mana pihak dari Malaysia ataupun Johor mengambil sebarang tindakan untuk menunjukkan ianya mempunyai hak ke atas pulau dan batuan-batuan tersebut, termasuk mengoperasikan rumah api di Pulau Batu Putih setelah 31 Ogos 1957. Maka ICJ memutuskan bahawa Singapura mempunyai hak à titre de souverain ke atas Pulau Batu Putih manakala Batuan Tengah menjadi milik Malaysia melalui hakmilik Kesultanan Johor.

Inilah sebabnya APMM aktif menghalau BNA Indonesia, Vietnam dan China yang sengaja menguji reaksi pihak berkuasa Malaysia. Tidak mustahil jika suatu hari nanti negara-negara ini membuat tuntutan ke atas kawasan-kawasan perairan dan pulau-pulau di Malaysia sekiranya Malaysia tidak mengambil sebarang tindakan yang menunjukkan kedaulatannya ke atas kawasan-kawasan tersebut.

Masalah yang dihadapi oleh APMM pula ialah walaupun di atas kertas ia memiliki berpuluh-puluh aset dalam bentuk kapal peronda, bot-bot pemintas serta aset-aset udara, perlu difahami bahawa kapal-kapal peronda kelas Bagan Datuk inilah kapal peronda yang paling baharu dan paling canggih. Kapal-kapal peronda yang lain ada yang usianya sudah menjangkau 40 tahun dan kebanyakannya adalah jauh lebih kecil berbanding kapal-kapal peronda milik CCG. Sebuah kapal peronda kelas Bagan Datuk iaitu KM Lahad Datu serta tiga buah kapal peronda luar pesisir pantai (OPV) masih belum diserahkan kepada pihak APMM. Aset-aset udara pula hanyalah dua buah pesawat sayap kaku jenis Bombardier CL-415MP dan enam buah pesawat sayap putar jenis Eurocopter AS-365N3 Dauphin dan AgustaWestland AW139 – jauh dari jumlah yang boleh dianggap mencukupi.

Semasa kapal CCG Zhongguo Haijing 5402 mengganggu kapal penggerudi minyak serta kapal-kapal bekalan dalam kedudukan 44 batu nautika (80 kilometer) dari pesisir pantai negeri Sarawak, Malaysia telah menghantar dua buah kapal milik Tentera Laut DiRaja Malaysia (TLDM) iaitu Bunga Mas 5 dan KD Keris. Walaupun tindakan tersebut telah membuat kapal CCG tersebut mengalah dan berundur ke perairan Beting Patinggi Ali (Luconia Shoals) namun kita belum dapat menjangkakan reaksi pihak China seterusnya.

Ini adalah kerana Malaysia tidak bertindak balas dengan menggunakan diplomasi badan kapal putih (white hull diplomacy), iaitu kapal-kapal APMM untuk menyelesaikan keadaan. Sebaliknya, Malaysia telah menghantar dua buah kapal yang mempunyai badan kapal kelabu – iaitu kapal perang tentera. Besar kemungkinan, China akan bertindak balas di masa hadapan dengan mengirim sebuah atau dua kapal perang tentera lautnya (PLA-N) untuk mengiringi kapal peronda CCG. Sekiranya China bertindak sedemikian, ia adalah kerana tindakan Malaysia menjadi punca sebab China meningkatkan tahap reaksinya.

China juga baru-baru ini telah memperolehi persetujuan kerajaan Cambodia untuk menggunakan pangkalan tentera laut Cambodia di Ream yang terletak di Telukan Thailand. Sudah tentu kapal-kapal CCG dan PLA-N dapat menggunakan pangkalan ini untuk memperolehi bekalan. Ini bermakna, selain menunjukkan kuasanya di sebelah timur Laut China Selatan di luar pesisir pantai Sabah dan Sarawak, kapal-kapal CCG dan PLA-N juga boeh mengganggu bot-bot nelayan Malaysia serta platform dan kapal-kapal penggerudian minyak di sebelah barat Laut China Selatan iaitu di luar pesisir pantai Kelantan dan Terengganu yang hanya sekitar 15 jam pelayaran dari Ream pada kelajuan 20 batu nautika sejam.

Oleh demikian, adalah penting bagi kerajaan serta rakyat Malaysia memahami peranan penting APMM sebagai sebuah agensi separa-tentera (paramilitary) sebagai kuasa pencegahan bagi kuasa asing bertindak sewenang-wenangnya di dalam perairan serta Zon Ekonomi Eksklusif (ZEE) kita. Penting juga bagi kita memahami kerana APMM amat memerlukan lebih banyak aset dan kelengkapan yang lebih canggih dan besar serta berkemampuan untuk berada lama di kawasan rondaan tanpa perlu diulangbekal terlalu kerap.

Cabaran menguatkuasa undang-undang maritim serta mempertahankan kedaulatan perairan Malaysia juga begitu hebat di musim pandemik COVID-19. Umum tahu bagaimana penularan virus COVID-19 di atas sebuah kapal pengangkut pesawat milik Amerika Syarikat telah melumpuhkan pengoperasian kapal tersebut. Oleh sebab itu, kapal-kapal APMM juga diarahkan supaya menjalankan operasi pengusiran BNA dan bukannya penangkapan. Menurut Leftenan Komander (M) Nik Mohd Rizam arahan pengusiran tersebut bukan sahaja untuk menjauhkan para pegawai dan anggota APMM dari terjangkit virus COVID-19, malah ianya juga adalah kerana penangkapan nelayan-nelayan asing juga mungkin akan mendedahkan rakyat Malaysia kepada penularan mutasi baharu virus tersebut.

Sehubungan itu, pusat-pusat tahanan PATI di negara ini sudah penuh hinggakan kerajaan terpaksa membuka pusat-pusat tahanan PATI sementara untuk menempatkan PATI yang ditangkap di dalam negara. Malah, Timbalan Menteri Dalam Negeri I Dato’ Sri Dr Haji Ismail bin Haji Mohamed Said semasa menjawab pertanyaan di dalam Parlimen pada 18 November 2020 memberitahu Dewan Rakyat bahawa setakat 13 November 2020, Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia (JIM) melaporkan bahawa terdapat seramai 13, 103 orang tahanan di Depot Tahanan Imigresen (DPI) di seluruh negara berbanding kapasiti depot seramai 12,530 orang tahanan pada satu-satu masa.

JIM juga melaporkan bagi tempoh dari 1 Januari 2020 hingga 12 November 2020, seramai 89,086 orang warga asing telah diperiksa. Dari jumlah tersebut, 21,176 orang PATI telah ditangkap untuk siasatan. Sekiranya kerajaan perlu tanggung kos makanan dan minuman berjumlah RM40 sehari bagi setiap orang PATI yang ditangkap ini, maka kerajaan terpaksa membelanjakan sebanyak RM847,040 setiap hari. Proses menghantar PATI pulang ke negara asal lazimnya mengambil masa di antara tiga minggu hingga empat bulan. Maka, kerajaan membelanjakan di antara RM840 hingga RM4800 untuk membekalkan makanan dan minuman bagi setiap orang PATI. Malah, kos keseluruhan untuk menanggung PATI di DPI di seluruh negara ialah sebanyak RM3.4 juta sebulan.

Pandemik COVID-19 juga memberi kesan terhadap emosi para petugas barisan hadapan APMM. Bagi Nasul Abdul Halik yang bertugas sebagai tukang masak KM Bagan Datuk, berjauhan dengan keluarga di Satok, Sarawak sudah tentu memberi cabaran baginya. Apatah lagi beliau baru setahun bertugas dalam APMM. Penularan wabak COVID-19 di Malaysia bermakna sudah setahun beliau tidak dapat menjenguk keluarga di Sarawak. Namun seperti lain-lain anak-anak kapal KM Bagan Datuk, beliau menguatkan semangat untuk melaksanakan tugas kerana moral anak-anak kapal yang lain bergantung juga kepada kemahiran beliau memasak. Sudah tentu rasa masakan beliau perlu sedap tidak mengira sama ada beliau bersedih mahupun mabuk laut akibat cuaca buruk.

Demikianlah di antara cabaran-cabaran yang dihadapi oleh para petugas barisan hadapan kita di Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia. Biarpun cabaran datang dalam berbagai gelombang, mereka akan tetap menerima cabaran-cabaran tersebut. Namun, lebih banyak sokongan kerajaan dari segi aset, kelengkapan dan kewangan yang diperlukan oleh mereka-mereka seperti Leftenan Komander (M) Nik Mohd Rizam dan anak-anak kapal KM Bagan Datuk untuk menjalankan tugas dengan lebih berkesan dan lebih berwibawa.

Defence: RMN’s Look At China

The Royal Malaysian Navy has announced the procurement of up to four vessels from China for its Littoral Mission Ships programme. The Type 056 corvettes virtually matches the requirements of the RMN (image by Wikipedia)
The Royal Malaysian Navy has announced the procurement of up to four vessels from China for its Littoral Mission Ships programme. The Type 056 corvettes virtually matches the requirements of the RMN (image by Wikipedia)
The dust has yet to settle.  Pro-US tweethandles have been lambasting Malaysia for its ‘shift’ in trade approach – a whopping RM143.64 billion (USD34.4 billion) worth of MoUs have been signed between the two countries that includes what Prime Minister Najib Razak termed as ‘a landmark deal’ – the purchase of four vessels from China to fulfill the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN)’s ‘Littoral Mission Ship (LMS)’ programme.  It is a ‘landmark’ deal because it is a departure from the usual military purchases from Western manufacturers.

However, shift it is not.  Between January and August of 2016 Malaysian exports totalled RM500.33 billion (USD119.72 billion) with China being the second largest buyer of Malaysian products at RM58.93 billion (USD14.10 billion) surpassing the US by RM6.51 billion (USD 1.56 billion).  In the same corresponding period for 2015, China imported RM18.52 billion (USD4.43 billion) more than the US. Malaysia has been trading with China since 1974.

Given the requirements of the RMN, the platform that would be most suitable for the LMS programme is the Type 056 Corvette.  The RMN had embarked on several programmes such as the Kedah-class NGPV and the Samudera-class Training vessels with local yards being the preference.  In both programmes, the local yards had failed to manage the projects efficiently and effectively causing delays the RMN could not afford.  Extra funds had to be pumped in in order to complete the projects.

The ‘KD Perak’, first of the Kedah-class NGPVs to be constructed locally was laid down in March of 2002 and was launched on the 12th November 2007, more than five years compared to less than 18 months for the first two that were constructed at Blohm & Voss as well as the HDW yards. She was only commissioned on the 3rd June 2009, seven years and three months after being laid down!  In the end, due to the rising cost to complete the vessels that had been laid down, only six of the Kedah-class was built out of the 27 planned.  This had left the RMN barely able to patrol Malaysian waters as almost all the 40-year old patrol crafts had been taken out of service.

The Samudera-class programme in 2011 called for two training ships namely the Gagah Samudera and the Teguh Samudera to be constructed at a local yard in Sijangkang, Selangor.  Due to a mismanagement of the programme the yard was unable to complete both vessels although both had been launched in 2012 and had to fold up when a creditor took them to court in 2013. In late 2015, funds were made available only for the Gagah Samudera and a yard in Lumut was selected to complete her fitting out.  As of October 2016, she is still undergoing her testing phase. The fate of the Teguh Samudera is still not known.

The Chinese option gives the RMN the edge of procuring proven modern vessels that are common-of-the-shelf (COTS) for a lot less. This augurs well with the RMN as her assets are being stretched thin, with combat boats such as the CB90 doing crew change and supply runs to the various RMN stations located in the Spratlys. Two years ago last month one CB90 went missing for more than a day in rough seas.  With the LMS coming online, these tasks could be handed over to these more capable vessels.

Despite being known as a strong ally of the US, the Royal Thai Navy has been using Chinese-made vessels since the mid 1990s when the first two frigates, HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Taksin were commissioned in 1995.  Newer and more modern vessels such as the HTMS Pattani and HTMS Narathiwat were commissioned between 2005 and 2007.

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Royal Thai Navy’s OPV HTMS Narathiwat
Bring COTS model the Type 056 corvette can be obtained quickly as compared to its American contemporary, the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship (LSC).  The Type 056 corvette began production in 2012. To date People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN-N) have commissioned its 25th vessel compared to three of the Freedom-class vessels which began production in 2005. With automation being the key feature of the Type 056, a single unit requires only up to 60 officers and men to operate with a mission endurance of about 21 days compared to the Freedom-class that requires 115 men with the same endurance.  This will definitely reduce RMN’s cost of operating each LMS.

The purchase of the China-made vessels also fits into the RMN’s ’15-to-5′ armada transformation programme which aims at reducing the current fifteen classes of vessels built in seven countries to just five – the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); New Generation Patrol Vessels (NGPV); Littoral Mission Ships (LMS); Multi-Support Ships (MRSS) and submarines.

The move offers the RMN a broader spectrum to choose from for platforms that are fit for purpose based on mission capabilities and the RMN doctrine. This would make the armada more cost-effective to manage and maintain.  We have the leadership of the RMN to thank for finally taking the step to transform the organisation into a lean and mean fighting force.

 

Paradise Won

A flight of B-52 bombers from the USAF flew around Second Thomas Shoal and Mischief Reef in the Spratlys and were quickly challenged by Chinese Air Traffic Controller during the weekend of the 8th and 9th November 2015.

US PACAF released the transcript of the exchange between the bombers and the Chinese ATC and was reproduced by Alert 5 and are as follows:

Chinese ATC: “You have violated my reef. Change your course to avoid misjudgement.”

Chinese ATC: “You have violated the security of my reef. Change course to avoid misjudgment.”

Reply from the B-52: “I’m a United States military aircraft conducting lawful activities in international waters, and exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law. In exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard to the right and duties of all states.”

China has been making de facto claims on the Spratlys by doing reclamation works on reefs that include the construction of airfields and enforcing its “Nine-Dash Line” policy all the way into Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone. Being the sole regional Big Brother China has been flexing its muscle against its smaller neighbours economically and militarily. China’s runway at Fiery Cross reef has a runway that could land a H-6G bomber that could operate 5,700 kilometres from a home base, not to mention Shenyang J-11 fighters that could operate within a radius of 1,400 kilometres. Malaysia is now within a 45-minute strike distance.

As if that is not enough, the threat if asymmetric warfare from Sulu in the southern Philippines is also a clear and present danger. On the 15th November 2015, the Abu Sayyaf was reported to have met with elements from the IS to conduct terrorist attacks in Malaysia. The Abu Sayyaf is also notorious fir the kidnappings of westerners and Malaysians alike.

 

RMAF assets involved in Ex Paradise 2/15 – photo by Marhalim Abas
 
With the above in mind, the Royal Malaysian Air Force conducted and concluded Exercise Paradise 2/15 from the 9th until the 20th November 2015. With the objective to test its combat readiness and capabilities in the Second Air Region, the RMAF deployed assets such as the F/A-18D Hornet, Su-30MKM Flanker, BAe Hawk, 108/208, C-130H-30 transport aircraft, KC-130 tankers, CN-235 transport aircraft, helos such as the Sikorsky S61A4 Nuri and the Eurocopter EC725 and also involved the RMAF Special Forces regiment. The Malaysian Army’s 10th Brigade (Para) provided a team of air despatchers.

 

A RMAF F/A-18D Hornet from No.18 Squadron – pic by Capt Rahmat
 
Up until the 18th November 2015, a total of 198 air sorties had been flown. During the Field Training Exercise (FTX) RMAF assets successfully conducted Air to Ground firing exercises as well as Air Drop operations and insertion of special forces elements to support ground operations.

During the War Exercise (WAREX), the assets were then combined for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), High-Value Air Asset Protection (HVAAP), Combined Air Operations (COMAO), Mixed Fighter Force Operation (MFFO) and Large Force Employment (LFE).

According to Exercise Chairman, Major General Dato’ Mohd Shabre bin Haji Hussein RMAF, the exercise achieved more than 90 percent of its objectives in accordance with the Scenarios of Exercise (SOE) and was a success.

The media was also invited to witness the exercise in a bid by the Ministry of Defence as well as the RMAF in educating the media, and in turn the public, on the capabilities of the RMAF and the importance of public support towards the Malaysian Armed Forces in general.

Members of media had the privilege to take part in a Aircraft Force Down exercise involving fighter and transport assets.

 

Members of the media experiencing aircraft force down procedures in a side-exercise – photo by Fadzli Hafiz
 
In an observation by this writer, the Ministry of Defence has to seriously look at beefing up the assets of both the Royal Malaysian Air Force as well as the Royal Malaysian Navy. The Chinese government gets away with murder in the South China Sea simply because Malaysia lacks effective deterrence. The RMAF for example should be equipped with AWACS aircraft as well as the still-elusive MRCA.

 

A KC-130 tanker leading a formation of F/A-18Ds, Su-30MKMs and Bae Hawks – photo by MINDEF
 
This writer opines that in line with the principles of force projection, MRCAs should also be based in Labuan in sufficient numbers to deter the advance of PLAAF and PLAN assets, while the Hawks concentrate especially in providing air support for the ESSZONE by having forward operating bases in Tawau and Lahad Datu or Sandakan. Without strong deterrence, Malaysia will never be able to have diplomatic bargainjng power against any larger forces in the region.

The Chinese Navy “Visits” Beting Serupai

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Mention the name Beting Serupai you might get frowned upon by many. Mention the name James Shoal, and it may raise a few eyebrows. To most Malaysian, they would not be able to pinpoint where James Shoal is, save for some avid fishing enthusiasts, but this 22-meter deep shoal 80 kilometres off Bintulu, Sarawak, has been “visited” by elements of the People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) or simply referred to as the Chinese Navy, yesterday.

In its report on the 26th March 2013, the Associated Press wrote:

The official People’s Daily online said Wednesday that one destroyer, two frigates and an amphibious landing ship took part in the drills around Chinese-controlled outcroppings. They involved hovercraft, ship-born helicopters, amphibious tanks, and land-based fighters and bombers, and were followed by a ceremonial visit Tuesday to James Shoal farther south.

The Beting Serupai has always been part of China’s claim, lumped together in the Spratlys, as its southernmost territory. Prior to this “visit” the PLA-N visited the shoal in 1993 and 1994. In April of 2010, its vessel, the Marine Surveillance Ship-83 placed a sovereignty stele into the water area of the shoal.

When Malaysia enhanced its relationship with China in May 2011, it was looked at as a step further towards harnessing a greater economic relationship. The Malaysian Opposition was quick to excoriate the act as political pandering. But in retrospect, it was strategically a good move as it relives the act by the Sultanate of Melaka with the Chinese. China is not a country one could just ignore. As in the 15th century, an alliance with China not only provides economic benefits, but also from a military standpoint.

It is no secret that after China’s warnings to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in 2012, the United States was actively looking for bases in this region. Among the countries where bases are sought include the Philippines and Vietnam. However, no other modern naval base offers the best proximity than Malaysia’s own Teluk Sepanggar just north of Kota Kinabalu. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the carrier battle group of the USS John C Stennis decided to make a port call there in early October 2012. Before that, in the month of April 2012, the RMN base was visited by the US Navy Secretary, who brought with him the submarine-tender, the USS Emory S Land, and the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, the USS Louisville.

The only factor that is stopping the US Navy from getting naval base facilities in Sabah is probably not having a Malaysian government that would kowtow to them. Therefore, the outcome of the next general elections would be important to them. Little wonder that Sabah has been the aim of a certain party. However, this writer hopes that this dangerous effort would not come to fruition.

That the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines has asked Filipinos to stop referring to Sabah as Sabah, Malaysia three days ago, citing Memorandum Circular No. 162 issued by Malacanang back in 2008. The DFA has also begun referring to Filipinos fleeing Sabah as “displaced persons” instead of “evacuees” or “returnees.” This is the Philippines government doing a 180 on its previous position re the Sabah claim. The fact that the US Navy and Marines have begun deploying its assets in the Philippines comes as no surprise. On Tuesday the USN and US Marine Corps offloaded more than 270 tactical and amphibious assault vehicles in Subic Bay, Zambales.

American troops from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, offloaded a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle from the container and roll-on, roll-off ship USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus on March 21. Some 8,000 troops from both the US and the Philippines will commence its Balikatan exercise on 5th April. And the US has yet to offer an explanation on why its minesweeper, the USS Guardian, could run aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea near Palawan, two weeks before the incursion by the Sulu militants. And suddenly, Jamalul Kiram III who hardly has enough money to cover the bills for his twice-weekly kidney dialysis, could find the financial resources to send hundreds of armed militants across the Sulu Sea to Lahad Datu.

Perhaps, the Chinese naval exercise in the South China Sea and its “visit” to the southernmost part it claims comes as a warning to any party that plans to upset the military balance in the region. China, I would expect, would want to protect its interests; and the 180 by the Philippines in the Sabah issue could be seen as an attempt to de-stabilise the region. Having Sabah not only allows a nation to dip its fingers into Sabah’s oilfields but also increases its EEZ reach into the Spratlys.

Whatever the intentions may be by all the related parties, the Malaysian government should seriously look into increasing its naval and aerial assets. A country that is weak militarily will only see its soil trampled by foreign forces. The government should also make sure Sabah is not lost to another nation, and act against the Quislings who have caused the emergency in Lahad Datu.