TEBEDU: The many illegal jungle paths that crisscross the Sarawak-Kalimantan border which used to be just ‘jalan tikus’ (jungle treks) have been turned into ‘jalan gajah’ (literally elephant trails) as they have become wider and more well-trodden by illegal immigrants and smugglers.
The term ‘jalan gajah’ was used by Deputy Home Minister Jelaing Mersat to describe the illegal border crossings which he noted had grown wide enough for big vehicles such as trucks to pass through.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Centre here, Jelaing said stolen cars and illegal logs, for instance, could be easily sent across the border apart from even human trafficking.
“We are monitoring the situation closely to tackle, among other things, the problem of smuggling,” he said.
According to Jelaing, the widening of the roads is done by unscrupulous people who reap profits from smuggling activities.
He said such roads were mainly found in Kuching and Sri Aman divisions.
Towards this end, he said the Home Ministry would be much stricter in conducting patrols and would allocate funds to increase the facilities for officers posted at border points.
On the amount to be allocated, he said that it was still being studied, but it would be channelled according to priority.
He admitted that though the entry points were usually used by those who had relatives either in Sarawak or Kalimantan, there were also those who used the roads for other purposes, like looking for jobs in Sarawak.
“We know the Sarawak-Kalimantan border is very long and we have people coming in or going out using roads far from the border posts. This is where our problem is,” he added.
On a claim that gangsters who were arrested under ‘Ops Cantas Kenyalang’ and released recently were up to their old tricks, he said they would be investigated.
“We will conduct a thorough study and if this allegation is true, we will take action. But before the facts are gathered from the police, we can’t make any further statement,” he added.
It was reported on Wednesday that the police planned to interview Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing to get a clearer picture regarding his allegation last week that recently released gangsters were up to their old tricks.
On Monday, a national newspaper reported that the Bintulu MP had claimed that gang leaders who had been released after completing their two-year term of restricted residence under the Emergency Ordinance had started to reorganise and had returned to their old ways.
Tiong had said he had received numerous complaints not only from rural folk in his constituency, but also from individuals here and in Sibu, that they were being forced by some gangs to sell farm produce and jungle commodities at prices fixed by the gangs.
He had also claimed that the police had either failed to take down reports lodged by the farmers against the gangsters or had discouraged the farmers from lodging reports as their problems were said to be trivial.