KOTA KINABALU: The Government is set to acquire attack helicopters to strengthen the strike capabilities of security forces under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in disclosing this, said that they were looking at either the Eurocopter Tigre or Apache Longbow helicopter to be based under Esszone in efforts to counter cross-border criminals.
However, he did not disclose the numbers of helicopters to be deployed in the area after a series of security measures were being implemented following the latest kidnapping of Chinese national Yang Zai Lin, 34, from a fish farm in Lahad Datu.
It is understood that the attack helicopters would have been more efficient in cutting off the pirate group taking Yang and from crossing the border, after where Malaysian police exchanged fire with the gunmen, who managed to slip into Philippine waters.
Zahid, who was with Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim to meet Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to discuss security measures here, said the immediate measures included the deployment of more assets and manpower for Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).
He said that the existing laws under the Police Act, Public Order and Preservation Ordinance and Public Security Ordinance would be enforced in the Esszone area in the measures taken to strengthen security in Sabah's east coast.
"The powers of execution would be given first to the police, the Chief Minister and the Home Minister to allow for immediate actions in the Esszone," he said, adding that there were five steps, which would be implemented in regards to the nine proposals forwarded by the state to the Federal Government.
He said it includes the immediate registration of all vessels from sampans to ships by the Esscom to differentiate local and foreign boats in the state.
"Seven designated sea routes will also be gazetted for foreign boats and ships wanting to enter Sabah waters," he said, adding that action would be taken against any vessel trying to enter, or exit, outside the designated routes.
Malaysia and the Philippines governments would also be strengthening the high-level committee to ensure that any vessel or movement at sea were closely monitored by the authorities of these two countries, he added.
"We are here to ensure that no one escapes from our (tindakan)," Zahid stressed.
He revealed that more guard posts and observation towers would be constructed as soon as possible.
On the implementation of curfew, which was announced following the kidnapping of Yang on May 6, Musa said it would be put into operation very soon after a thorough discussion with the relevant authorities.
"The curfew would involve all tour operators and fishermen in the east coast including Lahad Datu and Sandakan," he said, adding, that they were still identifying the high-risk areas for the implementation of curfew to restrict movement during certain times.
Musa explained that when a curfew had been implemented, all vessels were not allowed to enter or exit the affected areas at certain times during the day.
"We have proposed nine steps which have been forwarded to the federal government and the meeting here today (Thursday) was to talk about whatever best steps to ensure the safety of the people as well as the tourists in Sabah, especially in the east coast," he said.
"We will not compromise in terms of safety and will do all we can to ensure the safety of people and our sea borders," he said.
He urged the people to continue supporting and trusting the Malaysian security forces and hoped that the measures drawn up would help restore peace in Sabah.
Among those at the meeting held at Seri Gaya here were Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, National Security Council (NSC) Datuk Mohamad Thajudeen Wahab, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib, Esscom director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek.