Major Worry – Sabah’s Lackadaisical Attitude Towards Border Security

To say it is a porous border (at Sebatik) is an understatement. The Indonesian side from all reports is better organised. It is our Malaysian side that is very lax.



COMMENT: AS usual we take things for granted.

Nobody seems to care until something untoward happens.

It was a timely reminder by Sebatik Assemblyman Datuk Abdul Muis Picho who had asked that a concrete barrier be built on Pulau Sebatik to reinforce the border between Malaysia and Indonesia, as there is rampant encroachment into the Malaysian side by the Indonesians.

The Malaysian-Indonesian land border is 2,0195.5 kilometres long; it stretches from Tanjung Datu in Sarawak through the highlands of Borneo hinterland to the Celebes Sea bisecting Pulau Sebatik into almost equal ownership.

To say it is a porous border is an understatement. The Indonesian side from all reports is better organised. It is our Malaysian side that is very lax.

We really could not be bothered.

There is a need to sit down with the Indonesian side and see that the encroachment is halted.

Abdul Muis Picho
Abdul Muis Picho

According to Abdul Muis the border stones along the Malaysian side were being removed and thrown away by the Indonesians so that they can open up farms, plantations as well as settlements.

The principal document determining the land border between Indonesia and Malaysia on the island of Borneo is the Border Convention or London Convention of 1891, agreed by both the Dutch and the British at that time.

Subsequent agreements between the colonial powers in 1915 and 1928 fine-tuned the border between the two sides.

On November 1973, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Malaysia and the Indonesian side for the joint survey and demarcation of the common border.

Work began on September 9th 1975 and was completed in February 2000.

Still, there are still outstanding issues that need to be ironed out, as of 2006, a total of 19 memorandums of understanding with 28 maps had been signed pertaining to the survey and demarcation of the border covering a distance of 1,822.3 kilometers of the 2,019.5 kilometers border.

For the Indonesians to encroach our side as claimed by Abdul Muis, this cannot be accepted as the borders have been agreed on since the colonial days.

Pulau Sebatik; half is Malaysian and the other half belongs to Indonesia.
Pulau Sebatik; half is Malaysian and the other half belongs to Indonesia.

It is our lackadaisical attitude towards border security that is also worrying.

Border security is everything to do with a nation’s sovereignty.

Indonesians are more serious, they have created a new province called North Kalimantan from the East Kalimantan province when they found out it was not convenient administratively to do so because of the size, and the new province is now up and running south of Tawau.

Of course, we must remember the border dispute in the Celebes Sea was partially settled in 2002 when the International Court of Justice ruled that the Ligitan and Sipidan islands were ours.

But both countries still have overlapping claims over the continental shelf which the Indonesians refer as Ambalat, believed to be rich in oil.

The creation of the new North Kalimantan province was part of their forward planning in the event of further disagreements as it would help their logistics tremendously.

It is not that we have a hostile neighbour; in fact the North Kalimantan Governor Iriyanto Lambrie had expressed hope that Malaysia would honour its part of a border agreement reached during the term of ex-Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Malaysia had not done anything to establish proper border posts in at least two points along the border between Sabah and North Kalimantan province, namely Simangaris and Serudong, he said.

The Indonesians on the other hand had honoured its part of the bargain by asphalting the road leading to the border post, besides erecting other facilities 10 years ago.

There were talks of building security fence along Thai-Malaysian borde, of course we would like to see the same at least on Pulau Sebatik.

Security and defence is the sole responsibility of the Federal government as per Malaysia Agreement (MA63).

We don’t want to blame other parties for encroachment as they are more committed and seem to understand border security better unlike us that have common borders with five different countries.

A bit strange not to be on the ball, isn’t it?


It is rare to hear a faith leader talking ‘politics’.

Rev Jerry Dusing
Rev Jerry Dusing reminds us that Sabah is a secular State and religious freedom is part and parcel of the Malaysia Agreement signed in 1963.

The Christmas and New Year message made recently by Sabah Council of Churches President Rev. Jerry Dusing resonated well with many right thinking persons.

Dusing had called for those in authority to fulfil their moral and legal responsibilities as well as obligations to ensure that Sabah’s rights in Malaysia as agreed in Malaysia Agreement (MA63) were honoured.

His reminder that Sabah was a secular state and religious freedom was part and parcel of the agreement was also timely in the context of d ‘Hudud’ Bill being talked about, which could bring more divisiveness in our multi religious society.

Only qualities of compassion, respect, honour, fairness, truthfulness and integrity can move this country to be a more progressive pluralistic nation, he said.

He prayed that truth and truthfulness be established amongst those in positions of authority after all Government is a trust and officers of the government are trustees, both are created for the benefit of the people.

Will other faith leaders stand up and be counted? They too should be bold enough to remind those in authority and the people at large to reject extremism and bigotry and to walk on the right path all the time.

By keeping quiet, it is like agreeing to all the ills in the country.

Some will say this is not the time for the faint-hearted. As we welcome the New Year, we also want hope as part of our armory.

  • Fly on the Wall is a weekly Sunday column. Our intrepid guest columnist would like BorneoToday readers to comment on his arguments, whether your agree or not, with him. You can address them to [email protected]. We will publish your comments unless you say no.