National Police confirm illegal crossing into Sabah

File photo of Indonesian illegal immigrants arrested in Malaysia

JAKARTA - The National Police confirmed Sunday that a group of 17 Indonesians, consisting of civilians, police and military officers had been detained for illegally crossing into Malaysia on Sebatik Island.

"Where there are foreign force personnel crossing the border without permits, it of course draws attention," said police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie.

He said that the group was there to pick up a suspected criminal and admitted that there had been a breach in procedure as such proceedings should take place at border stations.

"The case has been settled through coordination with the East Kalimantan Police," he said.

The Malaysian police arrested 17 Indonesians, 14 of whom were military and police personnel not in uniform, after they attacked a police station to get a suspected killer on Sebatik Island.

Malaysian Police deputy inspector general Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said they were investigated for entering Malaysia illegally, saying the men who entered the country were acting on their own and not in any official capacity from the Indonesian authorities.

"These men were all of lower ranks and were there of their own accord. They were not instructed to bring the suspect back by any superior," he said.

The men invaded the Wallace Bay Police station in Sebatik, a shared island off the coast of Sabah's southwestern Tawau district, on Friday, demanding the murder suspect be identified so they could take him back.

Noor Rashid said the men - 10 policemen, four soldiers and three civilians - who were arrested would be investigated under Section 6(3) of the 1963 Immigration Act for entering the country illegally and also Section 8 of the 1960 Arms Act for the possession of firearms without permits.

Noor Rashid also confirmed that Malaysian police on Sebatik had arrested a suspect who was apparently wanted by the Indonesian police for a murder case.

"We will take into consideration all aspects, including our good relations [with Indonesia], as well as our country's laws," he said.

It was learned that the Malaysian police also seized 12 firearms (eight pistols and four .38 Smith and Wesson revolvers with bullets) from the Indonesian soldiers.

The Indonesian group had crossed the border using motorcycles and speedboats at about 2:45 p.m. on Friday and turned up at the Wallace Bay Police station at around 3 p.m.

Seven of them arrived in a speedboat while the rest were on motorcycles, crossing the coconut tree border markers of the island.

Sebatik, with an area of 452.2 square kilometers, is shared by Sabah and Indonesia's North Kalimantan province. It is about 1 kilometer away from Tawau.

Noor Rashid said the Malaysian police had no intention of discussing the possibility of sending back those arrested and that the police planned to investigate and charge the 17 men under Malaysian laws.