Oct 14, 2000

Pasir Sandera Exercise 1/2000

SEMPORNA Oct 13 - Pandanan Island, near here, where three Malaysians were abducted by an armed group last month, today became a major training ground for the Malaysian Armed Forces. The exercise, held to raise the readiness level of the country's security forces in facing any possibility of intrusion by armed kidnappers, was participated by 631 officers and other ranks from the three components of the armed forces - army, navy and air force. Three warships from the navy, three Nuri helicopters and a C130 aircraft and a Beechcraft belonging to the air force took part in the exercise which was witnessed by Armed Forces Chief Tan Sri Mohamad Zahidi Zainuddin.

According to Zahidi, the scenario used in the exercise known as "Pasir Sandera Exercise 1/2000" was the military's preparation in case any group tried to commit another kidnapping in the state. The exercise began with a group of 10 armed intruders landing on the island who succeeded in capturing three of the five people on the island. The two who managed to escape later contacted the military base in Mataking Island, not far from Pandanan Island, which later informed the Fifth Brigade at Lok Kawi Camp, Kota Kinabalu.

From there, a strategy was drawn up to send rescuers made up of naval commandos, Paskal, who later succeeded in recapturing Padanan Island and rescuing the hostages. Zahidi said the exercise succeeded in raising the armed forces' readiness level in facing any eventuality.

"The exercise would also build up the people's confidence in carrying out their daily activities safely," he told reporters after witnessing the training. It was also a warning to any group of abductors that the armed forces were always prepared to act in any situation. He said, since the deployment of navy ships in the Semporna waters three weeks ago, 147 boats from the neighbouring countries had been checked and 57 of them were detained for carrying 396 passengers comprising 181 Filipinos, 197 Indonesians and the rest from other countries. All of them had been handed over to the police for further action.

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