Sabah ceases cross-border trade

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is shutting down its eastern international boundaries to cross-border trade as part of measures to clamp down on southern Philippines-based kidnapping groups.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the decades-old barter trade activity at Sandakan and other east coast towns had been ordered to cease immediately.

This was among the seven measures agreed by the Sabah Cabinet at its meeting yesterday following the abduction of four Malaysian sailors from a tugboat in waters near Pulau Ligitan off Semporna on Friday.

Other measures include the immediate halt of transhipment trade involving petroleum and gas products in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone, spanning 10 districts from Kudat to Tawau.

Musa said amendments would be made to the 7pm to 5am sea curfew at seven east-coast districts from Beluran to Tawau and details were being worked out by security forces.

He said security forces would also seize any pump boats by foreigners in Sabah waters, adding that there would be no compromise against operators of vessels who contravened any maritime law.

“They will be barred from entering Sabah waters,’’ he added.

Musa said merchant vessels sailing in high risk waters would be provided protection by Malaysian security forces.

“We will need the cooperation of vessel owners to ensure such protection materialises,” he said after chairing the state Cabinet meeting.

Musa also said the proposed ferry services between the northernmost town of Kudat and Palawan in southern Philippines scheduled to begin in May had been deferred.

He said the measures reflected the Sabah government’s seriousness in wanting to rid the east coast of the menace posed by kidnap-for-ransom groups.

“This is not only a Sabah problem but one that has national implications,” he added.

Asked if there were links between barter traders and cross-border criminal groups, he said: “We do not know who these people (the barter traders) are bringing in.”