KOTA KINABALU: Maintaining the curfew in eastern Sabah clearly sends a message that the area is unsafe, says former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee (pic).
He said that with the curfew in place in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) itself gave a message of security concerns, which prompted the United States to issue travel advisory that listed the state's east coast under its “K” category with risks of kidnapping and hostage-taking.
He said the government was also giving conflicting statements that raise the question whether Sabah’s east coast was “safe or not safe” from cross border kidnappings.
Yong said the government's statements on the issue conflicted often on the security situation in the east coast as it gave rise to confusion among locals, businesses and tour operators.
“We should be reminded that it was only last week that an ex-hostage (Jari Abdullah), who was fatally injured while trying to escape his captors, was buried in Sandakan.
"Jari and two Indonesians were kidnapped in December last year by cross-border bandits at the Sulu Sea off Kinabatangan,” he noted.
The Sabah Progressive Party president said that security chiefs continue to assure the people that the Esszone is safe while the government announces the continuation of the night curfew.
“The imposition of curfews is to maintain control during periods of violent conflicts.
"Therefore, the imposition of curfew in the Esszone is sufficient to tell the world that the place is not that safe and that curfew is needed to keep the area safe,” he said in a statement on Monday (April 22).
He said though Wisma Putra summoned the US ambassador to voice Malaysia’s objection to the “K” listing last week, as of today, the “K” listing remains on the US travel advisory.
The fact that the United States maintains their “Kidnap” assessment for eastern Sabah despite repeated assurances from the Sabah Chief Minister, the Inspector-General of Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should be a cause for concern.
“As I have reiterated many times before, the source of Sabah’s security problems lies in the southern Philippines that borders the state.
“The US travel advisory for the entire Sulu Sea and islands is the highest Level 4 'no go' due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping. It is a consolation that the listing for Sabah’s east coast was only at Level 2 (exercise increased caution),” he added.