People have lost confidence in ESSCom, says chamber

KOTA KINABALU: A new and upgraded security body should be set up to replace the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) to regain the confidence of Sabahans, said Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI).

Its president, Datuk Michael Lui, said the people in the state have lost confidence in ESSCom’s ability to protect the security in the east coast of Sabah.

He urged the government to re-evaluate the effectiveness of ESSCom in carrying out its tasks and take proper measures, including establishing an upgraded security body to replace ESSCom.

Lui was commenting on the latest abduction of a fish farm manager of Wonderful Terroce Company by five armed men at Pulau Baik, Lahad Datu around 2.45am on Tuesday.

Yang Zai Lin, 34, from Guizhou province in China, was believed to have been abducted by a kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) armed group from the Philippines.

This is the second kidnapping within a month this year. On April 2, a Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker identified as Gao Hua Yuan, 29, and Marcy Dayawan @ Mimi, 40, were abducted from Singamata Adventures Reef and Resort in Semporna by masked gunmen, believed to be part of the KFR group from the southern Philippines around 10.30pm.

Lui said the chamber had urged the government to seriously evaluate the effectiveness and operations of ESSCom after the previous abduction in Semporna last month.

The latest abduction has caused the people to lose confidence in Malaysia’s security system, he said, adding that the domestic and international communities were also highly concerned about this issue.

“The abduction in Lahad Datu is a major setback to our efforts in recovering from the impact and damage caused by the missing Malaysian Airline MH370 and the previous abduction in Semporna.

“It will definitely cause a huge blow to our State’s economy as well as the confidence of foreign investors and tourists.”

As such, Lui hoped that Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman would represent Sabahans in requesting the Federal Government to strengthen the security asset in our State.

On the impact of Chinese investments in Sabah after the previous abduction in Semporna, Lui said he did not have the figures.

However, he pointed out that the tourist arrival from China in the first week of May could be an indicator.

According to Lui, Labour Day in China is a ‘golden week’ where the citizens get a seven-day holiday.

For the past few years, many Chinese travellers would visit Malaysia during their Labour Day holidays, including Sabah.

“After the abduction case (in Semporna), Chinese nationals have opted to travel elsewhere.

“We have seen a significantly low number of tourists in the first week of May this year, especially Chinese tourists.”

Lui said the Chinese consulate in Kuching has advised its citizens to be aware of their own safety and avoid travelling to remote islands or areas in Sabah, but he was worried that China would advise its citizens against visiting Malaysia, particularly Sabah, which would further worsen our tourism sector.

Hence, Lui urged the Federal and State Governments to re-evaluate the security efforts and undertake restructuring to strengthen the security in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (SATTA) president Dato’ Seri Winston Liaw said the latest abduction on Pulau Baik in Lahad Datu would worsen the situation of the tourism industry, which has already been badly affected by the previous abduction in Semporna last month.

He said the curfew that would be imposed on all high-risk areas would be of some help to prevent another abduction since the previous kidnapping cases happened at night.

Liaw opined that the curfew would not impact much on the tourism sector as there were few night tourism activities, including night dives.

On whether there has been any cancellation of trips to Sabah, Liaw said it was too early to tell.

Nonetheless, he urged the government to conduct a study on how to improve our security.

He pointed out that the existing security efforts were ineffective and the government should figure out how to stop abduction from recurring.

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