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Navy takes over patrolling of Sabah east coast
Publication Date : 15-03-2013
Malaysia's defence ministry has taken over the responsibility of patrolling Sabah's east coast, as it beefs up security following the deadly breach by Philippine militants.
The Royal Malaysian Navy will now be tasked to defend and carry out surveillance on Sabah's eastern coastline, Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi said yesterday.
Previously, the job of overseeing Sabah's 1,400km coastline was left to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department.
The navy will now be coordinating operations with the MMEA and will be able to provide them with "additional assets", said Zahid.
"I thank the Deputy Prime Minister (Muhyiddin Yassin) for his trust," Zahid told reporters, after receiving a courtesy call from Singapore's outgoing Chief of Defence Force Neo Kian Hong, in Kuala Lumpur.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin is the minister in charge of MMEA.
Sabah's security had come under scrutiny after more than 150 militants sailed from southern Philippines to set up camp last month in a remote village on the Malaysian state's east coast.
The followers of a self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu wanted to stake an ancestral claim on Sabah, but the stand-off turned bloody when calls to leave were ignored.
About 60 militants and 10 members of Malaysia's security forces have been killed since the Philippine camp was stormed 10 days ago.
The Malaysian authorities yesterday said the forces are still focusing attention on a few villages where skirmishes had broken out in the past, as they continue their operation to flush out the dispersed Philippine gunmen.
Sabah has vast tracts of forest and oil palm plantations.
More policemen will also be placed at police stations in east Sabah to improve security and "raise the confidence of the people", said Sabah police chief Hamza Taib.
Meanwhile, the Philippines said it will be charging the 36 people intercepted by its navy patrol boats on Wednesday with illegal possession of firearms.
The authorities said they were likely part of the militant group who were returning to the Philippines.
Militant leader Agbimuddin Kiram was not among them.
In Manila yesterday, demonstrators gathered in front of the Malaysian embassy to protest against the alleged human rights abuses of Malaysian forces against Filipinos in Sabah.