Wang Kelian RCI: Aksem commander reveals lack of cooperation among agencies on border security

DSP Syed Basri Syed Ali attends the Wang Kelian Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) hearing in Putrajaya May 15, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
DSP Syed Basri Syed Ali attends the Wang Kelian Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) hearing in Putrajaya May 15, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, May 15 — A commander from Border Security Agency (Aksem) today voiced his frustration over the lack of a unified command structure on border security in Perlis, the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the discovery of migrant camps in Wang Kelian heard today.

Testifying as the RCI’s 32nd witness, DSP Syed Basri Syed Ali — who is the Aksem commander for Perlis — said law enforcement agencies worked in silo and focused on their own objectives.

“We here do not have a single command to give out orders. As an example, agency A is with A and B is with B. It is difficult like that and even our standard operating procedures are different. How do you give commands?’’ he asked.

“There is a need for a single unified command to coordinate border security here,” Syed Basri said.

He said Aksem is only given limited jurisdiction as it still needs to seek permission from other agencies if it wishes to conduct operations within 2km of the border despite the Aksem Act 2017 empowering it to curb smuggling and other illegal activities along the country’s land borders.

His explanation baffled members of the panel including Tan Sri Ariffin Zakaria who asked how Aksem, an agency responsible for border security, could not be given access to the border it is meant to secure.

“How can you guard the border if you can’t access it?” he asked.

“Yes, we are responsible but practically, we are not allowed to enter the area without asking permission first from other agencies,” Syed Basri responded.

Aksem was formed in 2017 to replace the Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP).

The border patrol agency consists of five agencies which includes Royal Malaysian Police, Immigration Department, Customs Department, National Anti-Drugs Agency, and the Kenaf and Tobacco Board.

Syed Basri before Aksem was formed, the UPP acted only as a second layer of security while the Police General Operations Force (GOF) is the main agency guarding the border in Perlis.

Syed Basri, who was previously the UPP commander for Perlis since 2014, said that it had arrested some 600 illegal migrants in 2014 and another 364 migrants in 2015.

However, this revelation drew a comment from former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Norian Mai on why UPP’s arrest numbers were higher than those of the GOF, despite the former only acting as the second layer of security.

Syed Basri explained that this could be due to the lack of a structured command on border security. He then suggested that Malaysia learn from Thailand on managing border security.

“The Thai army issues a directive and everyone else follows it,” he said.

Earlier in the day, former Perlis Customs director Datuk Mohd Pudzi Man testified that his agency had received “vague” information on the migrant camps in Wang Kelian, however, lacked intelligence to conduct enforcement operations.

“We received information that a vehicle was ferrying people there but the information was vague.

“From an operations perspective, for us to conduct enforcement (activities), there was no case,” he said, adding that law enforcement agencies in the northern state would have acted if they had received solid information on the matter.

In 2015, the nation was shocked with the discovery of 139 graves and 28 human trafficking camps at the peak of Bukit Wang Burma in Wang Kelian located at the Malaysian-Thai border.

Following allegations of corruption and cover-ups, the government announced the RCI that began its hearings on April 16 at the Home Ministry’s Dewan Gemilang here.

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