I READ with trepidation the press reports on Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim’s announcement last week about the establishment of a maritime-based unit of the Malaysian Defence Forces (APM) ostensibly to fight against smuggling and piracy. It is a noble intent but a misguided one.
We already have a multitude of maritime-based enforcement bodies/agencies including the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Royal Malaysia Police Marine Force (RMP – Marine Force) and Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), and these are already having difficulties determining their respective jurisdictions.
The irony of this jurisdictional quagmire was that MMEA was formed back in 2005 to remove all jurisdictional overlaps.
Instead of forming another new agency or expanding the role of an agency with no involvement in maritime enforcement, the Government would do better to strengthen or enhance the capabilities of the existing ones.
Assuming the Government still intends to enhance our existing Civil Defence Force to have both maritime-based anti-smuggling and counter-piracy units, then the new unit will need to be armed with weapons to be effective. This in turn violates the basic tenets of civil defence forces worldwide.
The word civil, which is short for civilian, means the force is a civilian force. It should not be armed and it functions primarily to rescue people. In times of war, civil defence forces will be a key unit in planning and conducting rescue operations. By arming the force, the unit will now become a legitimate target at war.
Therefore, allow me to reiterate that instead of getting another unit to be involved in maritime security, the Government must seriously consider strengthening the existing unit. In fact, this is better served by enhancing the police Marine Force which is very effective in handling piracy. Do not fix the wheel when it is not broken.
LIEW SHAN LEE
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