KOTA KINABALU - A dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed in the seas off six districts in Sabah's east coast as Malaysian security forces tackle what they described as a threat to public order that is now real and continuous.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the six districts are Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak and Tawau.
The curfew hours are from 6pm to 6am every day from Saturday to Aug 2.
The curfew area involves the sea three nautical miles from shore until the international borders with the Philippines, encompassing an area of some 121,270 sq miles. The length of the curfew area was about 362 nautical miles from Tanjung Pundaras in Sandakan to part of Pulau Sebatik near Tawau.
He said the curfew was being imposed under Section 3(1) of the Police Act 1967 following approval from Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
After Aug 2, Malaysian security forces would assess the situation in the east coast and use the Public Order (Preservation) Act or Sabah's own Preservation of Public Order Ordinance to declare an indefinite curfew, if necessary.
Jalaluddin said those caught contravening the curfew could be liable to a jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to RM500.
The respective district police chiefs could give exceptions to government services such as medical services and Civil Defence personnel.
He said district police chiefs would also consider applications for exemptions to the curfew order from those who need to go through the restricted areas to reach other places.
For example, deep-sea fishermen based in Sandakan could apply for exemption if they needed to sail to waters off Kudat district where there was no curfew, Jalaluddin added.
The curfew had been anticipated in the wake of the attack on a Marine Police unit at Pulau Mabul on July 12.
Marine Police Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was shot dead and his colleague Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, was abducted when gunmen attacked them at the Mabul Water Bungalows Resort.
It was the latest security incident to hit Sabah's east coast.
On Nov 15 last year, Taiwanese Chang An Wei, 58, was abducted and her husband Li Min Hsu, 57, killed at the Pom Pom island resort.
Chang was freed after 36 days of captivity in the southern Philippines island of Jolo.
On April 2, China tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino hotel worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna and just over a month later on May 6 Chinese national Yang Zailin, 34, was abducted from the fish farm he was managing at Pulau Baik in Lahad Datu.
On June 16, gunmen once again struck at a fish farm at Kampung Sapang in Kunak and abducted its manager Chan Sai Chuin, 32.
Gao and Dayawan were released by their Abu Sayyaf gunmen captors on May 30 while Yang was freed on July 9, both in Jolo.
Chan, however, remains in the hands of his captors.