KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 ― Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is seeking for army personnel to replace law enforcement officers manning Malaysian borders to stem the scourge of corruption by smuggling syndicates.
Zahid said he will raise his proposal at the Cabinet meeting today for the army to “fully” take over Malaysian borders.
“It is high time for the army to be put in charge of the borders as it is not only about security, but also defence. It is the country’s first line of defence and I have always felt this way, even when I was defence minister.
“The issue of institutionalised corruption, where these law enforcement officers know the syndicate members well, must be arrested once and for all,” he was quoted telling local daily New Straits Times (NST).
Zahid also reportedly said he will raise the issue of fencing up Malaysia’s borders with its neighbours, claiming that the country was easily penetrable with wide “elephant lanes” instead of rat lanes.
Citing the Special Branch, the NST said its report showed that 80 per cent of Malaysian law enforcement officers at the country’s borders were engaged in corruption, with some purportedly also on the smuggling syndicates’ payroll instead of merely taking bribes.
The syndicates included those smuggling drugs, weapons and humans, NST said.
The report is based on the Special Branch’s 10 years of surveillance and intelligence gathering, and was conducted at border checkpoints and enforcement bodies such as the Immigration Department, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP) and the police’s General Operations Force.
The Special Branch told NST that such corrupt officers could previously be detained under the now-abolished Internal Security Act (ISA), but said the human traffickers released after the law’s abolishment have now resumed their smuggling business.
As an example, NST also reported that the Special Branch had in April 2014 gathered solid intelligence of two police patrol vehicles and two MMEA patrol boats escorting a major human smuggling syndicate’s convoy to a ship off Malaysian waters and bound for Australia.
On May 13, the police confirmed that two local policemen were nabbed recently along with 36 others for alleged involvement in human trafficking activities in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand, with the duo believed to have aided syndicate members obtain safe passage for the immigrants’ travel.
Last week, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi said 12 police officers have been arrested over suspected collusion with human traffickers who used smuggling camps in Perlis as a transit point for migrants, adding that investigations are still ongoing to determine if they were directly involved or just facilitators.
The recent discovery in Padang Besar, Perlis of nearly 140 mass graves and nearly 30 suspected people smuggling camps came after repeated denials of their existence by government officials.