KOTA KINABALU- Groups in Sabah asking for secession must understand that the state will not be safe from cross-border crime and other threats if it chooses to leave Malaysia, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said this was in light of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other militant groups in southern Philippines having openly pledged support for the Islamic State (IS).
"This is not to scare the people of Sabah but this is an open fact because the Bangsamoro have previously expressed their desire to establish an Islamic Caliphate, comprising southern Philippines, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Indonesia," he said after opening the Penampang annual Umno division meeting here yesterday.
"If we are not careful, our children and the future generation will be the ones who suffer.
"Groups who are asking for secession are those who do not understand the fact that Sabah will not be safe from cross-border crime and other threats if it chooses to stand alone," he said, adding that these people needed to think carefully about the issue.
The threat of IS militants, he said, was spreading fast.
"If we are not careful, we may end up like Syria and Iraq," he said, adding that the ministry was working with international security and intelligence agencies to ensure the country's safety.
The ministry, said Hishammuddin, was also upgrading a navy vessel and a decommissioned oil rig into two forward bases along Sabah's east coast to strengthen security in the state.
"We have agreed on principle with Petronas to use its old oil rig that will be refurbished into a forward base along the coast," he said, adding that RM 200 million ($78 million) had been set aside for the upgrading of the navy's Bunga Mas Lima vessel and RM230mil for the oil rig.
Both were expected to be fully operational by April next year, he said.
Hishammuddin also met Lt-Cmdr Lee Vee Weng, 35, a submariner with the Royal Malaysian Navy, who lost his wife Ng Shi Ing, 32, and a year-old son Benjamin, in the MH17 tragedy.