Border fences are only at strategic locations

Masing (second right) stands on Telok Melano border road while inspecting a house which is situated on an Indonesian National Army (TNI) road.

KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing has clarified that his earlier suggestion on building fences or walls along Sarawak borders with Kalimantan, Indonesia was for it to be built at strategic locations.

He said such fences or walls should be built in areas that are easily accessible by illegal immigrants and not the whole stretch of the 1,032km border with Kalimantan.

“The state’s border with Kalimantan which starts from Telok Melano to Lawas is 1,032km, and a lot of those areas are covered by forests and mountains. But the accessible areas and flat areas are from Telok Melano to Lubok Antu.

“So, I went on the ground the other day to look at the situation along the border in Telok Melano, and while I was standing on our Malaysian soil, I was talking to an Indonesian lady whose house is a just a stone throw away. Imagine how close is that, and there is nothing stopping them from walking in and out into our area,” he said in an interview today.

Masing, who is State Border Security Committee (SBSC) chairman, said what worries him now is that people from the neighbouring country can just enter through illegal trails and might bring Covid-19 into the community, hence posing danger to Sarawakian health.

“According to figures from Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), the Covid-19 cases imported from Kalimantan in the state are no less than 30 percent.

“Which is why I suggested that fences or walls be built at strategic locations only as some mountainous areas cannot be accessible, thus, nobody would be able to cross over such areas and hence does not require fencing,” he said, adding that there were not less than 70 illegal trails (jalan tikus) identified stretching from Telok Melano to Lawas.

He said building fences and walls was not the only solution to the problems of illegal immigrants entering Sarawak, but immediate measures such as increasing patrol, building border highway along the 1,032km border and the setting up of more immigration and quarantine complex (CIQ) equipped with modern technology including working closely with Indonesian government on workers coming to Sarawak is equally important to enhance border security.

“By doing all these, we want to protect Sarawak and its people. And we need to think ahead, it is better we put in all these measures while we have a friendly relationship with Indonesia.

“In the future, we do not know what is going to happen. We do not want to see issues like people coming in to destroy our assets — dams which are located near the borders. Once it is destroyed, then we are finished.

“That is why it is better that we prepare early and hence I called for a border highway which cost approximately RM24 billion to be built in order to tighten our border security,” he stressed.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Ports Development also said he had discussed with the federal government on building the border highway.

“The federal government has agreed with our concept, after all, this is not Sarawak land but also protecting Malaysia’s land. Next, is to ask them for help in terms of funding to build the roads.”

He said the proposed border highway would cover areas along Serian/Terian road, Engkilili/Lubok Antu road, Song, Baleh, Belaga and Tinjar.

“Currently, there are seven CIQs in Sarawak, and we are looking into setting up one CIQsin Long Singgut in Kapit and another one in Long Unai in Belaga,” he said.

Masing said the Sarawak government welcomes any suggestions or proposal with regard to enhancing the border security.

“I saw Dr Yii’s (Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii) remarks on the newspaper where he said my suggestion was outrageous. I welcome him to give me an alternative proposal and the price, I will look into it, the cheaper the better, but it must be effective as well.

“I also encourage him to go to the see the situation on the ground with his boys and see what are the best solutions in securing our borders with Indonesia. Don’t just talk and then lari (run away) … It is easier said than done, you know,” said Masing.