November 05, 2003 10:03 AM
By Newmond Tibin
LAHAD DATU, Nov 5 (Bernama) -- Fisherman Mohamad Jumlie, 40, of Kampung Panji, near here is no greenhorn.
Years of experience in navigating the waters off Sabah's east coast especially Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna has made him knowledgeable about the area, which is rich in marine resources.
He knows when it is a good time to go out to sea, find shoals of fish and take shelter during adverse weather.
Even then, when met by Bernama recently, he admitted that he still did not know all the estuaries in the area.
This includes the Sungai Sabahan in Kunak, which caused a scare early last month following the abduction of six workers of the Borneo Paradise Resort.
"I've heard of the river but I don't know which one is its estuary. I didn't know that a resort is there. I knew about it when I read the newspaper about the abduction...I was shocked. How could such a thing happen," said Mohamad.
Only one of the six workers managed to escape his abductors while the fate of the others is still unknown although unverified reports said they were killed in a shooting incident outside the town of Languyan on Tawi-Tawi island last Oct 27.
The fact that they were brought to southern Philippines seemed to confirm the suspicion of former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Norian Mai of local criminals being in cahoots with outsiders.
The abduction led to various speculations among the local population but, one thing is sure, they want an end to it.
The abduction carried out by 10 gunmen on the night of Oct 5 was the third incident of its kind to have occurred in the east coast of Sabah.
Two earlier incidents involved the abduction of 21 people including nine Malaysians from Pulau Sipadan in April 2000 and three Malaysians from Pulau Pandanan in September the same year.
So far, no one knows who is behind the latest abduction although there were reports linking it to a group of kidnappers operating in southern Philippines, including the Abu Sayyaf group.
The incident highlights the fact that criminals will always act when there is an opportunity to carry out their evil scheme.
The long and porous border make patrolling difficult while the criminals only need one to three hours to escape into international waters from any of the small islands dotting the waters of the Sabah's east coast.
If there is truth of a link between local criminals and their foreign counterparts, then the challenge for the authorities is not just to patrol the coastal waters to prevent intrusion but also to severe the link.
Social activist Patrick Sindu said that "our defence could be as formidable as Mount Kinabalu" but it makes no difference if the locals were helping outsiders to commit crimes.
"The incidents at Sipadan, Pandanan and Kunak are lessons for us to unite and work together with the security forces to ensure such incidents would not be repeated," he said.
Patrick also urged the authorities to be firm against any quarters found harbouring illegal immigrants.
Resort owners should also stop the practice of employing foreigners as security guards and instead to recruit the locals, he said.
The local population feel the security patrols along the Sabah's coast should be more than enough to ensure safety.
But things do happen.
The abduction will not end if there are still armed groups who believe that they can make money from such activities.
The third abduction can still be dismissed as an isolated case but it is another breach of our waters of marine rich resources.