Jan 2, 2006

Commandant admits clashes with pirates in Sabah waters

STRAITS OF MELAKA Feb 27 - The commandant of the Marine Special Forces (Paskal) has admitted of clashes between his commando unit and the pirates in waters off East Sabah.

"Our capability is not only seen formidable in training but has been tested as well. I can't revealed the details," said Paskal Special Operations Officer, Lt. Commander Che Adnan Mat Isa.

He was asked by reporters onboard the KD Mahawangsa during the "Naga Emas" 41/2002 exercise if Paskal had been an effective force in fighting the pirates since there was not much publicity on the unit since its formation in 1981.

Che Adnan said it was no surprise to him since the waters off East Sabah were highly dangerous, infested with pirates as well as serving as a route of Philippine rebels.

But, he refused to say if the marine commandos had clashes with the rebels. He said the pirates were also armed with sophisticated weapons and more organised compared to in the past. "In the past, we heard only of traditional pirates but with the current economic slowdown, a new bred of pirates have emerged," he said.

He said the new bred of pirates could change the identity of a ship in no time, suggesting that they had the logistics support and a professional organisation. Che Adnan however refused to comment on whether these pirates could be foreign military personnel who resorted to piracy to buffer the effects of the recession.

He also said the government was expanding the special forces but it was no easy task. "We need men. If 60 apply, only two will make the cut," he said. He said that with the information explosion, the authorities were now more liberal in talking about Paskal which at one time was the country's secret. Some 40 Paskal members are involved in the exercise which include the use of latest laser-guided assault rifles.

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