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23 October 2000; 17:04 pm - Bernama

Cabinet okays loan of Swedish assault boats in Sabah, says Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 (Bernama) -- The Cabinet has agreed to the loan of four assault boats from the Swedish navy to help beef up security in waters off Sabah's east coast vulnerable to intrusions.

Arrangements with Sweden were underway to have the vessels delivered by year-end, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told a media conference at Parliament House lobby Monday.

"From what we've been told (by the Swedish government), we can expect delivery of the boats by end of the year... before next year we can have four additional boats," Najib said.

Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) commandos, stationed in Layang-Layang island within the Spratlys, are already using two Swedish-made assault boats and the abductions in Sipadan and Pandanan islands off Sabah's east coast in April and July saw them being mobilised there as well.

"Without sufficient patrolling by a sizeable fleet of assault boats, intruders will have a field day..as the sea boundary is only 20 to 30 minutes by boat from southern Philippines," Najib said.
The government was reportedly considering acquiring more assault boats to patrol territorial waters and also reportedly, the Swedish-made high-speed water-jet-powered crafts were found to be suitable for the role as they are also versatile in shallow waters.

Only such vessels could match the high speed boats used by the Sipadan and Pandanan abductors who were later confirmed as those from the rebel Muslim separatist groups based in southern Philippines.

To another question, Najib said the military would continue stationing troops in Sabah's east coast as long as the situation in southern Philippines remained volatile.

Moreover, Najib said islanders there also appealed for troops to be present to protect them but the military would have to consider their request because of the financial implications, among other things.

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