Strong mandate needed to keep Sabah safe, says Hisham

KOTA KINABALU: The government is committed to safeguarding the welfare and well-being of its Armed Forces personnel, especially that of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN).

This is in appreciation for maintaining the country’s security and sovereignty, especially in Sabah, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

To him, the partnership between Mindef (Defence Ministry) and the industry as well as the leadership at the parliamentary and state assembly levels must be seamless.

“This means that this relationship should not be questioned and is not for sale because our agenda is to ensure the safety and defence of Sabah and its people. This is also to ensure that our preparedness in Sabah is at the desired level,” he told reporters after attending a gathering with RMN staff at the Sepanggar Naval base here yesterday.

According to Hishammuddin, the government will continue to ensure its agenda for RMN staff, such as their welfare, health, training, education, housing and cost of living, is carried out smoothly.

“We will institutionalize this and I hope that the sweat, tears and sacrifices of our personnel are appreciated by all in Sabah. This is my hope,” he said.

Hishammuddin also approved the proposal for 1,700 units of houses for RMN personnel to be built on the base itself.

“Housing is very important as we cannot deploy them if they are worried about their families, especially for navy personnel who have to leave their families for long periods of time,” he said.

Earlier RMN Eastern Fleet Commander Datuk Syed Zahiruddin Putra Syed Osman had, in his speech, asked the Defence Minister to consider a housing project for the Sepanggar navy personnel at the base itself.

This is because the identified site at Kampung Laya Laya is 30 kilometres away from the base.

“It is quite a distance from the base and if we build the housing there, we need to build infrastructure like school, mosque and others,” he said.

Syed Zahiruddin also disclosed that the building of a petrol kiosk on the base was mooted by a personnel who pointed out that the nearest one was in Mangattal.

Hishammuddin agreed that the site is too far away and gave on-the-spot approval for the housing project to be implemented on the base itself.

He added, “we need to find out what are the needs of the personnel. It cannot be top down anymore … the petrol kiosk was one of them and also the Gentisan bridge,” he said, adding that Sepanggar base is one of the 38 bases where a school will be built and he will be working with the Education Minister on this.

But the Barisan Nasional government needs a strong mandate from the people of Sabah to ensure continuance of the country’s defence and security agenda, he said, adding, “we need a mandate and a big one from Sabahans and our (security forces) personnel so our agenda to ensure Sabah is safe can be continued and the rakyat’s welfare is at a level we can be proud of.

Hishammuddin also announced a RM5 million allocation for the maintenance of houses in the navy base that had sustained damage in the recent earthquake. This, he said, will be done with the cooperation of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is in charge of the Economic Planning Unit.

Earlier, Hishammuddin launched a Petronas petrol kiosk at the navy base and inspected the damaged bridge at Kampung Gentisan, which will be repaired at a cost of RM12.5 million.

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