Some Sabah resort operators not cooperating with us, says security command

KOTA KINABALU: Some resort operators in Sabah's east coast are still reluctant to work with Malaysian security forces to prevent more kidnappings.

"There are some dive and resort operators who refuse to allow our personnel to hop on board boats ferrying divers with their tourists just because they do not want to lose money giving free rides to our personnel," said Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun in a statement yesterday.

He cautioned that losses would be more severe not only for the tour operators but for the whole tourism industry if a crime recurred.

Rashid said they recently made it compulsory to have at least one security personnel on board each tourist boat, especially those going for diving activities, more so following a latest kidnapping attempt in Semporna.

"In the attempt on Oct 17, our security ­forces noticed two boats with four suspects on board approaching a tourist vessel on a diving activity.

"Luckily, there were two uniformed men inside the vessel guarding the divers, prompting the four masked suspects to back off and flee," he said.

Rashid said tour operators must remember that they too must co-operate with security forces in ensuring no harm come to tourists and the locals.

He said they were also keeping a strict watch on "freelance" agents ferrying tourists to islands.

"These are the kind of actions which could result in worse losses or consequences because criminals are watching all the time and they have lots of informers here too," he said.

Rashid said tourists had told them they felt more at ease and safe in the presence of security forces, and there was no reason why tour operators should feel the opposite.

On Tuesday, Esscom representative Asst Comm Hassim Justin revealed that kidnap-for-ransom groups were now believed to be changing their targets from the usual east coast resort areas and fish farms.

He said they were now even going for fishing trawlers, trading and sailing ships such as yachts, seaweed farms and deep-sea anglers.

He said local fishermen were being robbed of their outboard engines and craft and asked to jump into the sea.