The Great Wall Of Datuk James Masing Is A Wildly Expensive, Ineffective, And Misdirected Effort

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Media Statement By Julian Tan:

Another great wall, another great wastage. How thick and how long its going to be to fence up the whole 1032km border with Kalimantan? A regular mesh fencing won’t cut it, not to mention the logistic nightmare of building the wall and the political message we are sending to Indonesia. With Indonesia new capital coming to Kalimantan, we should instead focus on growing our economy to become the upcoming economy powerhouse in the Borneo region. Sarawakian doesn’t need any more billions Ringgit “castle in the air” project. We need a tangible and practical solution to be a choice destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic direct investment (DDI). That is the key to achieve our vision of having a high-income state.

As for now, let us come back to reality, businesses are closing with the pandemic. Even middle-class families are having difficulty in putting rice on the table. Let’s focus our thought and resources on addressing the immediate need of Sarawakian. Many will not be able to stretch through for another few more months, what more the whole year of 2021 as the pandemic seems to be getting worse and out of control. For example, the tourism industry is severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest contributors to the states Gross Domestic Product – GDP, which generated RM11.57billion tourism receipts and accounted for 8.72 per cent of the state’s GDP in 2019.
RM11.57 billion is a lot of money for a state population of 2.81millions. According to the Malaysia Budget Hotel Association Sarawak Chapter, over 100 hotels in Sarawak have closed or are in the midst of being wound up.

Instead of “THE GREAT WALL” of Datuk James Masing, we should first consider what we have now and make it better with competent management and the use of technology.

These improvements can be carried out immediately and deployed on the field, such as:

1) Effective information sharing across agencies via IoT (Internet of Things).

The immigration department and enforcement agencies such as the police department should cross-share actionable intelligent DATA. Immigration departments should be able to “red flag” a person trying to run away by crossing the border. Perpetrators will often cross-over through the border check-point without being apprehended as information on them is not available even hours after the public notified the police. With a slight tweak in technology, we will be able to make use of available information and significantly change the outcome.

2) Set up an integrity unit that bites hard.

“Jalan Tikus” is the least of our problems at this moment. It is the people we entrusted and empowered to carry out enforcement duties. Last month, it is reported by PDRM that there had been irregularities among members of the General Operations Force (GOF) working at the country’s borders and abuse of power among its officers and members. The report further states that a GOF member was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle in three migrants through the Kalimantan-Sarawak border in Tebakang, about 70 km from Kuching. We have heard enough of the phrase “CCTV” not working; when it is supposed to be recording some serious abuse of power or negligence.

Even for future and a long-term solution, “The Great Wall” idea is a wildly expensive, ineffective, and misdirected effort considering the 1032 km long border covered by dense and uneven terrain. We should look into 21st-century solutions instead. Here are some readily available proven modern-day solutions:

1) The “Smart Wall”

An invisible border packed with the latest electronic sensors and Artificial Intelligent (AI). It can also incorporate the latest Geofencing and drone technology. We can literally do technology for “pennies on the dollar” as compared to a physical wall.

Every single kilometre of the border is unique and requires a different level of security. A drone may be needed in a certain stretch of the border, while a “micro-ground radar” may make sense in some. With technology, we can evolve and match those requirements to ensure continuous success in guarding the border.

One thing for sure, an “unseen smart wall” is less politically controversial than a physical barrier.

2) Multi Intelligent (Multi-INT) Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) solution.

It is a modern-day “Operation room” displaying all the available intelligence DATA into a simplified, easy to understand visual display to enable our forces to carry out their mission swiftly and accurately. It achieved the “power of synergy” by fusing available intelligent DATA across agencies into a user-friendly visual presentation.

Our forces can then understand the situation on the ground at a glance and provides actionable intelligence.

Currently, intelligent or actionable “Big DATA” is not readily shared across agencies. The pooling of DATA enables Ai to take over, which can process and consolidate relevant information into a human manageable solution. A task that is impossible for a human to perform.

This is like the Command and Control (C&C) room we saw in the Bond’s 007 movies. It may not be that dramatic, yet most of the technology and concept is already here.

We should also involve homegrown technology companies to take part in these high-tech solutions, instead of spending billions and building a 14th-century border solution, the walls. This is a win-win solution to empower our local tech companies and providing them the platform they need to go global. The states will also be able to retain high-tech skilled employment. We should strive to enable Malaysians to do well in their land and not only when they leave the country.

Julian Tan
Special Assistant to Chong Chieng Jen
2021.01.22