By John Isaac
BA’KELALAN assemblyman Baru Bian has called on the authorities to take action against the uncontrolled movement of people from Long Bawan, in North Kalimantan, Indonesia into Malaysia through Puneng Kelalan, a small town located about 100km from Lawas, Sarawak.
Baru said he was recently informed by local villagers of the increased movements, said to be due to an agreement between Malaysia and Indonesia on the supplying of goods.
“While we have no issue about helping our neighbours in these difficult times, it appears that other unscrupulous people are taking advantage of the arrangement between the federal government and Indonesia for their own selfish reasons.
“I was informed that there were three occasions so far that were officially arranged through the relevant ministry,” said the former PKR works minister as reported by Malaysiakini.
There are only three official immigration checkpoints along the 1,181km land border between Malaysia and Indonesia, but there are numerous informal entries and exits including at Ba’Kelalan-Long Bawan.
During the last transfer of goods, Baru said he was informed that up to 40 Hilux vehicles had travelled to Puneng Kelalan with goods to be picked up by their Indonesian counterparts.
However, the Selangau MP claimed that unscrupulous individuals had taken advantage of the situation to facilitate their own entry into Sarawak, heightening risks of possible undetected Covid-19 infections, despite the closed borders.
“From what was observed by the villagers, it appears there was no control over the number of people crossing over to our side to pick up the goods.
“I was told that some Indonesians even went as far as Lawas town to run errands and shop,” Baru said.
On the other hand, he said errant Sarawakians have also taken advantage of the lax border control to slip back into the state illegally without going through the compulsory health checks and quarantine.
“Some are paying RM400-500 to be ferried from the border to Lawas.
“There was no compliance with SOP, people did not wear masks, and it looked like there was a free flow of people entering Sarawak,” he said.
“Security personnel at the border should be mindful that this is a health and safety issue for the whole of Sarawak and guard the border even more rigorously than before.
“Instead, our security is being breached and our border is not protected as it should be,” stressed Baru who is now a member of Parti Sarawak Bersatu which is a state opposition party.
He called for swift action to prevent a Covid-19 cluster in Puneng Kelalan and Lawas.
Sarawak recorded 512 new Covid-19 cases as of yesterday, bringing the total number of positive cases recorded in the state up to 21,960.