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KUCHING, Jan 22 — Social activist Voon Shiak Ni says Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing’s suggestion to build fences or walls along the Sarawak-Kalimantan Barat border raised questions on its feasibility and cost effectiveness in solving the problem of illegal immigrants.
Voon said illegal immigration is a global problem and no country except for the United States, under former President Donald Trump, had resorted to building walls and fences to stop illegal migration from borders.
“Whatever measures we have in place now to seal off the borders to battle pandemic has to some extent been effective but there are loopholes here and there that enabled cases of unrecorded entries and anxieties loomed when some of the illegal migrants were tested positive for Covid-19.
“The entries of unrecorded migrants from the borders are evidences of flaws in our system. Can we beef up efforts to strengthen the existing enforcement system first as immediate measure to battle the spread of Covid to Sarawak?” said Voon who is former national PKR Women vice chairperson.
Voon added that even with the border wall there is no assurance that problem of illegal immigrants could be solved.
Meanwhile, Lina Soo president of another NGO, Aspirasi, called for a feasibility study be done before erecting any wall or fence along the border.
“Not much to knock about it as border barriers is national problem and a major challenge for any government.
“The age-old solutions have been walls or fences. I would say fences will be much cheaper than walls.”
“But a starting point would be to commission a feasibility study, need experts to study the problem to find solution,” she added.
One of the 70 illegal entry points along the border from Telok Melano to Lawas highlighted by Masing Lina said the situation could be mitigated by CCTVs and drones at strategic places especially Teluk Melano to monitor border crossings.
Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) president Voon Lee Shan urged the state to utilise the army battalions stationed at border posts to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the state.
“Why are the army camps built in the cities in the first place and not near the border. Are they being planned and placed guarding city dwellers from possible civil riots?”
Voon Lee Shan said Masing should have suggested that money to be spent on border wall or fence to be used to build and maintain rural roads.
“Majority of people in the rural areas of Sarawak are Dayaks and they have suffered for 58 years. Being a person who came from Baleh, a remote area, don’t tell me Masing is not aware of the cries of rural folks for better roads and better schools?” said the former Batu Lintang assemblyman.
Masing who is also Minister of Infrastructure and Port Development told Bernama that Sarawak had proposed to build a 1,032km highway along the border from the Biawak Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) complex at the south of the state, all the way up to Lawas, its northernmost district which is expected to cost RM24 billion.
Therefore he wanted walls or fences to be built at strategic places along the Malaysia-Indonesia border to curb the influx of illegal immigrants into the state. — Borneo Post