: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today announced the establishment of the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (ESSZONE) which will involve resettlement thousands in Sabah for the purpose of public security.
Najib said that the move was decided on after realising that the vulnerability of several settlements to the easy entry of illegal immigrants and stateless persons, was the primary cause of the Sulu terrorist intrusion in eastern Sabah.
The zones will cover 10 districts stretching from covering a coastline of 1,400 kilometres from Kudat to Tawau.
"By setting up the ESSZONE committee, the government is adopting a holistic and not a purely military approach to protect eastern Sabah and find a solution to the intrusion issue,” said Najib in his speech at the police training centre (Pulapol) for the 206th Police Day commemoration.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong gave his consent for the establishment of the ESSZONE under the Preservation of Public Security Regulations 2013., said Najib.
The districts are: Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau. Najib's latest announcement included four more areas than his first announcement in Lahad Datu previously.
ESSZONE will form the legal basis for the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) effective today.
Najib also said that the establishment of ESSZONE did not constitute the declaration of an emergency.
He added the establishment would not prevent the holding of elections or the enforcement of regulations in a free, transparent and democratic manner.
The ESSZONE would also safeguard the democratic rights and the democratic process pertaining to the people of Sabah as well as strengthen security, public order and prosperity in eastern Sabah.
These 10 districts would be administered by an Eastern Sabah Safety Zone Committee, set up under the Preservation of Public Security Regulations 2013, and chaired by the Sabah chief minister, he said.
The chief minister, as the chairman, would be assisted by a chief executive officer and members of the committee to be announced later, he said at the parade in conjunction with the 206th Police Day at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol) Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said that these areas have been given “priority” to ensure the safety and security of the Eastern Sabah people.
He said that police, one of the many agencies involved, will be increasing personnel placement in the areas, where several ESSZONE stations are already being built.
“There will be no restriction of movements in these areas, there is just more emphasis given on security than now,” he said.
Khalid said that a stricter monitoring of borders to ensure that there will be no further infiltration from terrorist elements from the Southern Philippines.
Since Feb 9, some 200 armed followers of the self-style sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III landed in Lahad Datu to stake an ancestral claim on Sabah.
The incursion and a Malaysian counter-assault have left more than 70 dead, including at least 67 intruders and 10 Malaysian security forces.
Last week, eight men were charged with terrorism-related offences in Sabah.
They were among more than 300 arrested for being linked to the Sulu intruders.