Saturday, June 19

Villagers claim unscrupulous individuals exploiting lax border controls at Puneng Kelalan — Baru


Baru Bian

KUCHING (April 16): Lax border controls at Puneng Kelalan, a settlement close to the Indonesian border, has led to unscrupulous individuals taking full advantage of the situation.

Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said several villagers near the border with Indonesia have expressed concern about the goings-on at the border crossing recently with the supply of goods under a bilateral cooperation agreement between Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Whilst we have no issue about helping our neighbours in these difficult times, it appears that other unscrupulous people are taking advantage of the arrangement between the federal government and Indonesia for their own selfish reasons,” he said in a statement today.

He also demanded the authorities declare the health and safety checks on the people who came across to Sarawak.

The Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) presidential council member said he was informed there were three occasions so far that were officially arranged through the relevant ministry, but the problem was that many private individuals were now “illegally” transporting and selling goods to Indonesia although the border is supposed to be completely closed due to the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).

He observed that during the latest incident a few days ago, 30 to 40 four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicles made the journey to Puneng Kelalan.

He said a huge volume of goods was left on the Malaysian side near the army post for Indonesians to pick up.

“From what was observed by the villagers, it appears there was no control over the number of people crossing over to our side to pick up the goods. I was told that some Indonesians even went as far as Lawas town to run errands and shop.

“Furthermore, some of the villagers here claim that Sarawakians have taken advantage of this lax border control to slip back into the state illegally without going through the compulsory health checks and quarantine.

“Some are paying RM400 to RM500 to be ferried from the border to Lawas. There was no compliance with SOPs (standard operating procedures), people did not wear masks, and it looked like there was free flow of people entering Sarawak,” he claimed.

Baru asserted that security personnel at the border should be mindful that this is a health and safety issue for the whole of Sarawak and guard the border even more rigorously than before.

He regretted that the state’s security was being breached and its border not protected as it should be.

“As everyone is aware, Covid-19 cases in Sarawak are still high compared to the rest of the country and was the highest in the country yesterday (Thursday).

“It was reported three days ago that the Health Minister on a visit to Kuching did not deny that lax compliance with SOP was a cause of the rise of the R0 of Covid-19 in Sarawak to 1.1 from 1.08 the day before,” he said.

Stressing that nobody wanted there to be Puneng Kelalan Cluster and Lawas Cluster, Baru said, “This is a serious threat to lives and we need some answers and strict action from the government on these issues.”