By RAdm (Maritime) Karunanithi Munusamy (R)
Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) marks its 8th anniversary today on 1 April. It is important we recognize ESSCOM and its staff when it is due since they have made significant efforts to make ESSZONE safe and secure for the community the last 8 years. It is just basic manners and its good for their morale.
As I have stated in my earlier opinion piece in this column, though threats posed by the Royal Sulu Force (RSF) have waned or remain dormant, it is fair to suggest that despite the many strategic steps that have been taken to enhance safety and security of ESSZONE, the battle to secure Sabah’s eastern seaboard is still work in progress.
The significant security issue that perceives ESSZONE as unsafe is the recurring kidnapping for ransom (KFR) cases. But based on KFR statistics, from a high 9 cases in 2016, there was only one case in 2020 and none for 2021. This significant reduction in number of KFR cases only reflects ESSCOM’s resolves.
Having worked with ESSCOM through its formation, periods of frustration and success, amidst very demanding expectations from the stakeholders, my time with ESSCOM for 39 months has been the highlight of my career; for being blessed to work with exceptional and able personnel from six different services (Police, Army, Navy, Airforce, MMEA and the civil service). I am equally blessed to have worked with the many State and Federal officers and community leaders in Sabah and they were always been enthusiastic to offer beyond the anticipated cooperation and resources to ESSCOM.
It was also the individual loyalty and devotion to duty displayed by all the staff in ESSCOM without which the result and security status now enjoyed would not have been possible. It is to be noted that 95% of the staff in ESSCOM were and are geographical bachelors; unaccompanied due to security concern and devotion to duty vis a vis the demanding expectations with little or no time for family. During all major festivals, the Commander and the senior rank holders are expected to be with the men on the ground and not with their families.
Consequently, it seems to me that the vital bits of life in ESSCOM are sandwiched in between constant bouts of intelligence (or the lack of it), preparations, planning, operations and repeat. We spend a tremendous amount of time to preparing ourselves for possibilities that we often hope will not occur.
The very moment you stop preparing for an eventuality, it will almost certainly happen. Once it did, whatever justification you offer to the stakeholders, nothing is justified. Moreover, it would be front-page news in all media. There are often situations that we have anticipated for which we have planned. Still all the while we hoped that in some way, we could prevent the kidnapping for ransom and other major cross-border crimes from happening.
There again we have to grapple with the almost daily flow of information, misinformation and disinformation. Yet I have to say that the time and planning that we have put into ESSCOM’s mission have been of immense value. I am very sure some of us in Sabah still remember the duty call by the then ESSCOM Commander; Tiada Hari Tanpa Operasi.
In between those bouts lie small but essential periods of achievement. Without the loyalty, devotion to duty and family time sacrifices, however, those accomplishment could not exist. Everyone has discharged their responsibility with utmost honour and have shown much endeavour and willingness to put themselves in position beyond their call of duty.
I must also admit that at times there occurs personality-based service tribalism but normally it tides over through wisdom. At the end of the day, whatever badges we wear, we are all committed to ESSCOM’s mission not individual services. I pity the ESSCOM Commander for the humongous accountability and responsibilities he carries. It’s a daunting task.
8 years on, ESSCOM’s mandate and mission remains as relevant as ever. Over the years old problems in the ESSZONE have transformed, new ones have arisen. Hence ESSCOM’s tool box and responses must transform too.
Happy 8th Anniversary to Commander ESSCOM, ESSCOM Chief Executive Officer and staff. Keep the ESSCOM flag fly high and be on top of the situation always. Keep up to the motto “Bersama Menjana Kesejahteraan”.
Today too I pay homage to ESSCOM pioneer group (Cabin Crew) and those who followed, for designing and producing the ESSCOM mould. ESSCOMians who are still serving the government, wishing you every success in your endeavour. For those who have retired, enjoy your retirement. For those who have passed, may your soul rests in peace.
Happy 8th Anniversary to all ESSCOMians, past and present
RAdm (Maritime) Karunanithi Munusamy (R)
Former Director of Maritime Enforcement Division