Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s version of the Coast Guard in the United States, which will begin operations in November, is expected to help raise confidence levels against any terror threat in the Malacca Strait.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), a paramilitary force, will start operating with 72 patrol vessels and more than 4,000 personnel, said Defence Minister Najib Razak on May 14.
The agency – which was established in response to concerns raised by the US that the Malacca Strait was vulnerable to terrorist attacks - will absorb personnel from the navy, police and other existing government agencies. It will operate out of nine coastal bases and two airports.
Apart from tackling piracy and taking part in anti-terrorist patrols, the MMEA will also be responsible for enforcing all Malaysian maritime laws, fighting coastal smugglers and monitoring pollution in the Malacca Strait.
Mr Najib’s announcement came amid reports that the littoral states of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia plan to hold talks next month to discuss anti-piracy measures and other security threats in the sea lane.
Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said: “We want to ensure security in the Malacca Strait is beefed up to give confidence to any party that has security concerns in the sea lane. The meeting of the littoral states will show our seriousness to guarantee that the strait is safe for ships.”
The three countries established coordinated navy patrols along the Malacca Strait last year, amid fears that terrorists could take advantage of lawlessness to strike at global trade.
Despite the stepped-up patrols, pirates have continued to attack ships in the busy waterway. An American offer to patrol the strait has been rejected by Indonesiaand Malaysia, citing territorial integrity.
* Malaysia’s new guardians of the sea (The Straits Times, May 15)
* Littoral states to discuss armed escorts in Melaka Strait (Bernama, May 14)