KOTA KINABALU – The curfew in the waters off seven districts in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone which ends today (Sunday), will be extended till Dec 13, said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun.
The 6pm-6am curfew involves the districts of Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran.
“It is necessary to extend the curfew to ensure Esszone waters are not encroached by terrorists. This is for the protection international researchers conducting research in the waters, tourists visiting popular islands in Sabah and the locals,” he said in a statement here Sunday.
Abdul Rashid said that based on information received, Abu Sayyaf terrorists and criminal elements from southern Philippines were still trying to conduct kidnappings for ransom and commit transborder crimes.
He added that the police chiefs of the districts concerned had the discretion to give exemptions on the curfew in cases of emergencies or to people who depended on the sea for their livelihood.
Meanwhile Rashid was quoted as saying that the idea to establish safe fishing zones in Esszone can help improve maritime security and protect fishermen against armed kidnappers.
Rashid, who welcomed the suggestion by Semporna Fishermen Association, said the police have no problem in implementing the measure.
“If that (establishing a safe fishing zone) can be done, then it is good. Security forces will be able to monitor fishing areas,” he was quoted saying in NST online.
“However, the (fishermen) associations have yet to meet and discuss the idea with me,” he said, adding that police were prepared to work with the fishing community to identify safe fishing zones for them in eastern Sabah.
Recently, Semporna Fishermen Association chairman Salleh Abdul Salleh suggested authorities to look into determining specific fishing zones to safeguard fishermen against cross-border criminals.
Salleh said this measure would allow security forces to easily control security at water areas used by fishermen and to observe their movement.
Rashid meanwhile hoped that fishermen would continue to cooperate with police in channeling information with regards to movement of suspicious boats so assets could be immediately deployed to intercept intrusion.
“I believe they (fishermen) have come across (suspicious) boats countless times but never report it to the authority. We want the fishing community to be on board with us.
“While we are happy to note that the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has recently intercepted three or four boats trying to sneak into Sabah waters, we want fishermen to help us in combating cross-border crime issues.”