KOTA KINABALU: Rela (the People’s Volunteer Corps) members who have been assigned to patrol the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone) need to be properly trained and armed to face the threat of terrorism, says Datuk Azis Jamman.
The Deputy Home Minister said it was crucial that Rela personnel received proper training, similar to other security forces such as the army and police.
“We are not belittling Rela members, we are confident that they are up to the task. We just want to ensure that those deployed to the Esszone are well-trained.
“They should also be well-equipped to face the threat of terrorism, which is unpredictable and could happen at any time,” he told reporters at the Sabah Rela Hari Raya Open House in Sepanggar here.
Azis, who is Sepanggar MP, also gave his assurance that the welfare of Rela members in the Esszone — encompassing their personal safety and allowances — would be given priority.
“I agree that security forces should be placed where they are needed. For the time being, Rela personnel can continue to be deployed to the Esszone, under the condition that their welfare is properly taken care of,” he noted.
“Their personal safety and allowances will be given attention. They will be equipped with weapons, and given adequate training,” Azis added.
The Parti Warisan Sabah Youth chief also said it was “worrying” that Rela members only received daily allowances, as opposed to monthly wages.
“Right now, they are getting daily allowances and it is worrying. They need to be compensated fairly, like other security forces.
“We (Home Ministry) will discuss this issue, and I will personally ensure that we review their allowances,” Azis said.
In January, the Barisan Nasional government announced that some 500 Rela members were to be deployed along the Esszone to assist the military, police and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) under the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).
The security forces have been tasked to secure the area, including the numerous resorts along the coast.
The Esszone was declared following continued attacks from militants and pirates from the Philippines into Sabah waters, especially after the Lahad Datu intrusion in February 2013.
A total of 10 districts – Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna, Tawau, Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, and Beluran – are included in the Esszone.