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The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) leads to a duplication of work, said a former Sabah police chief.

However, Ramli Yusuff, who was Sabah police chief from 2002 to 2004, refused to comment on whether Esscom should be scrapped, saying that it was a policy issue.

On the same note, Ramli said, Esscom should be headed by the state police chief to avoid duplication of the chain of command and ensure a better grip on security operational matters.

"I have studied the area well and I think Esscom, or whatever you want to call it, should be headed by the police or army. But I prefer the police because this is an internal (security) matter..," Ramli told Malaysiakini in an interview.

"This is my personal opinion, but (current Esscom chief) Mohammad Mentek is from the Immigration Department and he doesn't know operational matters," he added.

Ramli, who headed Ops Nyah which saw the deportation of more than 100,000 illegal immigrants from Sabah during his time, said Esscom creates a conflicting chain of command.

"I don't know... they may have their own standard operating procedures. But to me, as the ex-police commissioner, I think it is ridiculous. It is better to increase the assets of the local police or army for that matter... These things should be coordinated already," he added.

Commenting on the recent kidnapping of two women from a resort off Semporna, Ramli said if the police were in charge, no time would have been wasted.

Instead there was "pushing ( bertolak-tolak )" between Esscom and the police to figure out whose jurisdiction the kidnap fell under.

Ramli said when he was police chief, there were no incursions or kidnappings because coordination was tight among all enforcement agencies, including the army.

In fact, he said, he "wiped out" a gang of kidnappers from Sarawak with help from the intelligence and operations teams from Bukit Aman, with which he had worked before.

As police chief, Ramli said, he would advise the chief minister on security issues and coordinate everything with the navy, air force, army, volunteer corps (Rela), and Immigration and Customs departments.

"I advise politicians, I don't listen to politicians," he added.

Visit Malaysia Year without security?

Ramli said the army and police shared their assets throughout Sabah, and compared notes on intelligence which he insisted is the most crucial aspect of security operations.

Special attention was also given to tourist areas where more personnel were deployed at outposts and for patrols.

"(The kidnappers) are clever, and they have phones. They will try to invade but if you put your people there, they won't take it lightly. All our boys were there.

"Security must be in place, especially if you want to have Visit Malaysia Year. Or else who will come?...

"It doesn't matter (how long the border is). If it happens in your district you have to know," he said, adding that ground intelligence should be water tight in "red zones".

Based on his experience, Ramli said "there is no way" such kidnappings and incursions can take place because the state and security personnel have already identified these "red zones".

"So I cannot understand why Esscom cannot (handle) this... These are the areas we used to take care of before and we beefed up (security) in all these areas.

"If only the police and army can sit down and work together again, it will be very good. We worked based on information on the ground.

"Now I believe they have many platoons... There is no reason for such things to happen," Ramli added.