Citing militant threats on Sabah, BN MP tells Putrajaya to cut diplomatic ties to Manila

Tourists ride a zip line from Pulau Gaya to Pulau Sapi, off Kota Kinabalu. Sabah’s porous security has been a long-standing issue for the past 53 years and remains unsettled till today. — Picture by Adam Dean/The New York Times
Tourists ride a zip line from Pulau Gaya to Pulau Sapi, off Kota Kinabalu. Sabah’s porous security has been a long-standing issue for the past 53 years and remains unsettled till today. — Picture by Adam Dean/The New York Times

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 ― A Barisan Nasional (BN) federal lawmaker wants Putrajaya to cut all diplomatic ties with Manila, citing the long-standing terrorism threat against Sabah by rebel Filipinos.

Kalabakan MP Datuk Seri Abdul Ghapur Salleh said that though the Philippines no longer has any claim on Sabah, some of its people particular those in the republic’s restive southern islands have trespassed on the north Borneo state and conducted raids, frightening Malaysians for over 50 years.

“If we can, we cut diplomatic ties with the Philippines because they do not have any link or claim on Sabah.

“The people of Sabah are living in fear,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat today.

The Umno representative noted that Sabah’s porous security has been a long-standing issue for the past 53 years and remains unsettled till today.

He also made a reference to recent statements by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who was reported by national news agency Bernaa to have said the militancy threat on Sabah’s east coast has since spread to the west coast, with one “commander” in each of the 60 state constituencies.

Abdul Ghapur chided Ahmad Zahid for his remarks, relating that he had been flooded with messages from concerned Sabahans who feared for their home state’s tourism and economy.

“We are very saddened because with that statement, which later got wide publicity, we fear that tourists will be afraid to come to Sabah,” he said.

Abdul Ghapur claimed that Ahmad Zahid's statements have now created a climate of fear in Sabah.

He also criticised the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom), labelling the federal security initiative to protect the country’s northeasternmost borders “meaningless”.

“This ESSCom is just meaningless, if we have budget only to cover the east coast,” the Sabah MP said.

ESSCom is a security patrol initiative launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on March 7, 2013 that covers 1,400km of Sabah’s east coast, from Kudat to Tawau.

The state’s porous sea borders has led to a flood of illegal immigrants for decades, particularly from neighbouring Philippines and Indonesia, resulting in diverse socio-economic problems.

Muslim terror cells based in the southern Philippines and a centuries-old Sulu clan seeking to reassert its dominance on Sabah have frequently conducted raids on the Malaysian state.

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