MIL­I­TARY TO HELP FIGHT SMUG­GLING

Sale of Malaysian sub­sidised goods is com­mon in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries de­spite ef­forts to tackle the prob­lem

New Straits Times - - Front Page - RE­PORT BY ALIZA SHAH & HANI SHAMIRA SHAHRUDIN

MALAYSIAN-SUB­SIDISED con­trolled items are sold openly across the bor­ders, and one way for the au­thor­i­ties to fight this is by in­creas­ing en­force­ment. The Do­mes­tic Trade, Co­op­er­a­tives and Con­sumerism Min­istry plans to rope in the armed forces to check smug­gling along bor­ders. The armed forces chief is for the plan, but he wants guide­lines to be drawn up to en­sure smooth co­op­er­a­tion be­tween both agen­cies.

THE signs are telling and sta­tis­tics seem to sug­gest that smug­gling syn­di­cates be­hind leak­ages, which are cost­ing the coun­try bil­lions, have found ways to beat the sys­tem.

The piece­meal vol­ume of seizures from at­tempted smug­gling in re­cent months has prompted the Do­mes­tic Trade, Co­op­er­a­tive sand Con­sumerism Min­istry to rope in the armed forces to check if smug­glers have moved their op­er­a­tions into deep forests.

One ev­i­dence that the au­thor­i­ties had linked to the “suc­cess” of syn­di­cates smug­gling out goods, which Malaysian tax­pay­ers had been con­tribut­ing to their sub­si­dies, is their ro­bust sales across the bor­der.

The min­istry’s en­force­ment di­rec­tor Datuk Mohd Roslan Ma­hayudin told the New Straits Times that the sale of Malaysian sub­sidised goods in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries was a com­mon sight, de­spite ini­tia­tives and ef­forts to tackle the prob­lem.

The large gap be­tween the value of this year’s seizures of con­trolled items, cour­tesy of op­er­a­tions from its en­force­ment part­ners, and last year’s was an ob­vi­ous red­flag to the min­istry.

Up to June this year, the vol­ume of con­trolled items seized was val­ued not even at RM1 mil­lion, when it was more than RM20 mil­lion last year.

How­ever, Roslan said this might also be at­trib­uted to the low dif­fer­ence in fuel prices.

Roslan’s men had last year pre­vented al­most RM12 mil­lion worth of con­trolled items, in­clud­ing diesel, petrol, cook­ing oil, liq­ue­fied pe­tro­leum gas, sugar and flour, from end­ing up in the hands of smug­glers. The num­bers this year did not look promis­ing. As of June, they have only man­aged to stop about RM3 mil­lion of the goods from be­ing smug­gled out.

Roslan said he was in talks with the mil­i­tary on a “joint-ven­ture” with sol­diers at the bor­ders.

Dis­cus­sions, he said, were also to brief their soon-to-be part­ners on, among oth­ers, items that must not be al­lowed to leave the coun­try.

“The armed forces con­curred that there had been many oc­ca­sions when their sol­diers came face-to-face with smug­glers along rat lanes at the MalaysianThai bor­der.

“How­ever, their fo­cus had been more on pre­vent­ing un­savoury el­e­ments from com­ing into the coun­try, in­clud­ing drugs and weapons.

“So, what we are do­ing now is to help them fa­mil­iarise with the list of sub­sidised con­trolled items and pro­vide them with in­for­ma­tion on what is to be done when they en­counter such cases,” he said, adding that fo­cus would be given to the north­ern bor­der and those in Ke­lan­tan, as well as the Sabah and Sarawak bor­ders.

“See­ing our sub­sidised con­trolled items be­ing sold openly across the Thai bor­der is so com­mon and the only way for us to com­bat this is by strength­en­ing en­force­ment.

“But, we can­not do this alone. We have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Eastern Sabah Se­cu­rity Com­mand, Malaysian Mar­itime En­force­ment Agency and a few oth­ers... but we need more help.”

Roslan has about 2,600 en­force­ment of­fi­cers de­ployed across the coun­try to tackle a host of con­sumerism is­sues, in­clud­ing pric­ing and smug­gling.

He said the min­istry was fo­cused on help­ing lower the peo­ple’s cost of liv­ing and that stop­ping mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of sub­sidised con­trolled items was im­por­tant.

“We are in­creas­ing our pres­ence on the ground and we have also en­gaged other en­force­ment agen­cies, such as the Peo­ple’s Vol­un­teer Corps and Civil De­fence Force, to help us con­duct checks at cer­tain lo­ca­tions, such as wet mar­kets.

“Un­der the Na­tional Blue Ocean Strat­egy, we are now ex­pand­ing our col­lab­o­ra­tion to in­clude the Malaysian Armed Forces, which has given us their com­mit­ment to as­sist in ef­forts to curb smug­gling of sub­sidised con­trolled items,” he said.

Mean­while, Armed Forces chief Gen­eral Tan Sri Raja Mo­hamed Af­fandi Raja Mo­hamed Noor told the NST that he had no prob­lems with his men as­sist­ing the min­istry if that meant help­ing the na­tion plug leak­ages at the bor­ders.

He, how­ever, asked that a com­pre­hen­sive guide­line be drawn up to en­sure smooth co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the agen­cies. This in­cluded a clear stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure.

“The mil­i­tary can as­sist the min­istry in pre­vent­ing sub­sidised con­trolled items from be­ing smug­gled out... in fact, we wel­come their en­forcers to join us in our op­er­a­tions.”

FILE PIC

Sol­diers pa­trolling the Malaysian bor­der will be ad­vised on what to look for in as­sist­ing the Do­mes­tic Trade, Co­op­er­a­tives and Con­sumerism Min­istry curb the smug­gling of sub­sidised con­trolled items.

Datuk Mohd Roslan Ma­hayudin

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