SEMPORNA: Another census on the Palau people or sea gypsies of Semporna will be done in August amid allegations they act as the “eyes and ears” of cross border criminals, such as kidnappers.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Deputy Comm Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the second phase of the census of the sea gypsies (also called Bajau Laut) is important in view of numerous claims about their involvement in activities that threaten national security.
“They have been said to provide information about the movement of our sea patrols and troops at islands around Semporna,” he said, adding that Esscom did not want the Palau to be exploited by criminals from across the border.
DCP Rashid said that they wanted to obtain a clear picture of the demographics of the area, including establishing how many of them are actually Malaysians.
“After a population study, we will be able to come out with a long-term plan to strengthen our security further,” he said after breaking fast at the Tampi-Tampi Darat mosque near here on Thursday.
In March, Esscom worked with various local and federal agencies to carry out the first phase of the census on the Palau population in the waters of Pulau Kulapuan, Pulau Omadal dan Labuan Haji here.
DCP Rashid said Esscom did not want to make things difficult for people there, but drastic moves had to be taken to maintain security at Sabah’s east coast.
He said cross-border kidnappers had inside help to navigate in and out of Sabah’s waters with ease, adding that one such example was the May 14 kidnap of restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, and Sarawakian tourist Then Ted Fen, 39, from the Ocean King Restaurant in Sandakan.
“The kidnappers are unlikely to know accurately the area and targets in this large area.
“They can only do it with help from those who are already inside, and this is Esscom’s challenge,” he said in urging the community to assist by providing information on illegal immigrants or suspicious groups.
Thien and Then are being held at Jolo island in southern Philippines by Abu Sayyaf gunmen, who are demanding a huge ransom.
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