Community outreach approach to thwart smuggling activities

Johor MMEA director First Admiral Nurul Hizam Zakaria (left) handing out aid to Sungai Punggur’s fishing community head Abdullah Kassim to be distributed to locals during the agency’s community engagement session, which is part of Operation Redback with the Australian Border Force.

THE Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will continue focusing on the Johor waters to thwart criminal activities such as the smuggling of migrants, drugs and contraband items.

The agency’s director-general Maritime Admiral Datuk Mohd Zubil Mat Som said this was following the reopening of various economic sectors including trading, shipping and agriculture.

He said unscrupulous parties could bring in foreign labour through illegal routes.

“The community’s cooperation and information is important to help us combat such illegal activities.

“We have been carrying out community outreach programmes where recently we visited and engaged with the locals in Sungai Punggur, Sungai Ayam, Sungai Buloh, Sungai Bagan, Parit Simin, Parit Jawa and Parit Salam in Batu Pahat and Muar.

“During the community engagements, which is part of the 16th edition of Operation Redback, we disseminate information and inform the locals of ways that they can help us to combat illegal maritime activities.

“We also distributed about 300 food hampers as well as safety gear, first aid kits and personal hygiene products to the communities to provide some aid to those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that the food items were contributed by a non-governmental organisation in Kuala Lumpur.

Mohd Zubil said the local communities were quite supportive of the authorities’ efforts to combat and curb illegal activities taking place at sea.

He said the annual Operation Redback, jointly conducted with the Australian Border Force (ABF), had been held since 2013.

This time round, the operations focused on western Johor waters where both agencies shared information, expertise and best practices with each other, he elaborated.

“The consistent collaboration between MMEA and ABF resulted in a shared view towards border crimes where we also beefed up our theoretical, practical and tactical strengths to tackle this issue,” said Mohd Zubil.

He said the seven-day operations saw 59 MMEA personnel and enforcement officers as well as three ABF officers set out in one ship, four boats and a Tanjung Piai-based sea surveillance system (SWASLA) radar.

“Throughout the period, we conducted 38 physical checks on a variety of vessels, recorded 260 sightings through the SWASLA radar and four outreach and community engagement programmes involving seven localities,” he added.

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