Posted to Berita Wilayah (Dec 15): Sabah Confronts Kidnap-for-ransom Groups Head On
A slew of cross-border kidnap-for-ransom cases gripped Sabah over the past year as security forces were kept on their toes to ensure security for coastal dwellers and others in the state.
Mindful of public concern over the kidnap incidents as well as attempts by Abu Sayyaf terrorists to infiltrate Malaysia, the eastern coast of Sabah has seen its security beefed up to thwart such nefarious activities.
And the extra vigilance paid off when, for the first time, three members of a kidnap gang were killed in a shootout with Malaysian forces in Pulau Gaya waters off Semporna on Dec 9.
The seven-member group had abducted two skippers of fishing vessels in the waters off Bekapit in Lahad Datu and Pulau Gaya.
The swift action against the abductors earned the praise of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who noted that it was not an easy task ensuring security over a large expanse of water.
In 2016, at least seven kidnap cases were reported in Sabah waters, and excluding the Dec 9 incident, all resulted in the abductors eluding the authorities along with their captives.
Undaunted by that challenge, the government has implemented plans to build a helicopter forward operating base (FOB) on a 0.48ha site at Lahad Datu airport.
The FOB will improve defence preparedness and security in the areas within the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) which was established in March 2013.
Najib performed the ground-breaking of the project on May 28 besides officially launched the operations of the Tun Sharifah Rodziah sea base in waters off Semporna in efforts to stave off cross-border criminals.
The year 2016 was also marked by the incident of an emergency landing of a Royal Malaysian Air Force helicopter on the roof of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Balung, Tawau, on Oct 4, causing injuries to 22 people including 13 RMAF personnel.
The fight against corruption had also drew people's attention when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized RM114.5 million in a case related to abuse of power involving infrastructure projects in Sabah valued at RM3.3 billion, which was the biggest in the history of the commission.
The MACC had also seized land titles, luxury cars, branded handbags, watches of various brands and jewellery, and the commission is in the process of preparing the investigation papers before submitting them to the Attorney General's Chambers for further action.
In the economic field, RM3.784 billion was allocated for the 2017 Sabah Budget - a budget surplus for the third year tabled by the state government.
A sum of RM1.188 billion has been proposed as development expenditure for 2017 and consists of the state fund totalling RM828.48 million and federal fund of RM360 million. -- BERNAMA