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Not within our scope: MAHB
Published on: Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) said as an airport operator, its inspection of passengers at airports nationwide is to counter hijacking and sabotaging incidents that will compromise the safety of passengers, as per the National Civil Aviation Security Programme (NCASP).

Hence, it stations Aviation Security (Avsec) officers at departure gates to screen passengers that carry dangerous items such as explosives and firearms.

"The same applies for facilities at the airports such as the inline baggage handling system which processes all check-in luggage to detect items that will harm the well-being of passengers," its media relations unit said in a statement.

Nevertheless, it said Avsec officers are always on alert to assist other agencies such as the Immigration and Customs departments to look out for specific individuals or items, be it false identity or smuggled items such as contraband and wildlife.

It was responding to a Daily Express report titled "What A Shame At KK Airport" on March 1, 2018 on a Feb. 25, 2018 incident where a 35-year-old holding a red MyKad managed to give Customs officers the slip after an estimated RM570,000 worth of syabu was found inside his baggage at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).

According to State Customs Department Director Datuk Hamzah Sundang, the suspect ran to the parking lot and Customs officers could not give chase due to safety factors, as "it was late at night and the area was dark".

Following the debacle, it emerged that the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (JKDM) did not have the authority to conduct inspection on outbound domestic flight passengers at KLIA and that "only MAHB had the authority to do so".

This came as a shock to many. Various quarters asked whose responsibility then was it to check the baggage of passengers to ensure that drugs and other contraband are not smuggled into Sabah.

It was felt that several seizures of drugs amounting to around half million ringgit and more each time last year at KK, Tawau and Sandakan airports could be due to this loophole or lack of accountability with traffickers gleefully taking advantage of the situation.

Meanwhile, responding to a subsequent report "MAHB and Customs Bosses Must Go" on March 2, MAHB said the security and baggage screening systems at the airports are designed to detect dangerous metal items but the systems do not detect organic materials.

It stated that enforcement on contraband and narcotics smuggling are carried out by the relevant government agency at arrivals. The personnel are present at both domestic and international arrivals as well as international departures for this purpose.

In the case of Kota Kinabalu International Airport and all airports in Sabah, the government agency performs the check on arriving passengers to detect any smuggled contraband and drugs at the entry points.

It said there have been cases whereby Avsec had successfully helped to deter smuggling activities at their airports. In 2017, there were eight cases nationwide that were successfully deterred by Avsc.

They said a most recent example of this was clearly showcased in the arrest of five drug traffickers at Sandakan Airport on Feb 27 this year.

Malaysia Airports, they said, will continue to work with various parties in tightening border checks for both domestic and international entries.

They said a few solutions such as the use of canines to detect smuggled drugs have been discussed between Malaysia Airport and related government agencies. - Jegathisan Sivanesan

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