The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has proposed a sea-based deployment plan to ensure security on the east coast of Sabah in Borneo following a second kidnapping this year by armed gunmen from the Philippines.
The chief of the RMN, Admiral Aziz Jaafar, told IHS Jane's that the RMN's proposal has been forwarded to the government for consideration and involved either the basing of fast interceptor craft operating from mother ships in the waters there or the construction of forward bases on small islands.
The RMN chief also told IHS Jane's that the RMN was possibly acquiring a number of surplus Mark V Special Operations Craft from the United States via a transfer programme. The transfer would depend on the United States agreeing to have the vessels refurbished in Malaysia, where it would be cheaper.
Adm Aziz declined to comment on the numbers of Mark V craft to be acquired, but IHS Jane's sources have confirmed that 12 are to be transferred. An RMN team that assessed the vessels in the United States have recommended that only eight be restored to operational status with the remaining four cannibalised for spare parts.
The changes to force structure in Sabah would allow the RMN to cut down the reaction time to incursions by gunmen coming in from the Philippines and would better position them to intercept such incursions, Adm Aziz said, adding that should the forward bases options be approved, such bases would be permanent structures which would also include surveillance radars able to monitor the area.
The recent kidnappings both involved Chinese nationals and as such have been a source of major concern for the Malaysian government. In the first incident, on 2 April, a Chinese female tourist and a Filipino resort worker were kidnapped from a resort; on 6 May a Chinese national was taken from the fish farm that he managed.
Bilateral relations have come under strain in recent months since the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which was bound for Beijing and carried a large number of Chinese nationals. While there has been a significant amount of anger displayed by the Chinese public over Malaysia's handling of the incident, the Chinese and Malaysian governments have stated that bilateral ties have not been seriously affected.
The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), a joint civil-military command, has come in for criticism over the incidents. In a rare display of unity, government and opposition members of parliament from East Malaysia have been unanimous in their criticisms of ESSCOM and its inability to prevent such incidents from occurring. (IHS Jane's)