Reading the frontpage of our local papers especially these past few days is like reading a page of a Malayan history book, like the old days of Communist insurgency and guerrilla warfare. I am referring to the current insurgency in Sabah, East Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
On Feb 9, some 235 Filipinos, some armed, arrived by boat in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia from Simunul island, Tawi-Tawi of southern Philippines.
According to Wikipedia, yes, it has made it there, the group, calling themselves the "Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo", was sent by Jamalul Kiram III, one of the claimants to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu. Kiram stated that their objective is to assert their unresolved territorial claim to eastern Sabah (the former North Borneo).
On Tuesday, all-out air and ground strikes against the group came after they refused to surrender despite repeated deadlines. Eight Malaysian police commandos have been killed in clashes with the group.
Yesterday, authorities released photos of 13 slain intruders following the all-out attack Tuesday by Malaysian security forces against armed Sulu gunmen holed up in Kampung Tanduo. Sweep and mop-up operations at the site unearthed a mass grave containing the bodies of nine Sulu intruders.
Today, the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan (Jamalul Kiram III) called for an immediate ceasefire to the standoff in Sabah following calls by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to end violence in Sabah and start holding dialogues.
However, Malaysia has rejected the unilateral ceasefire call by self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Sulu militants must lay down arms and surrender unconditionally and operations against them "will go on as long as it takes," said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at a press conference on Thursday.
He also said that the question of whether Sabah was part of Malaysia should not arise as that has been determined legally as far back as 1878 and subsequently by the referendum conducted by the Cobbold Commission ahead of the formation of Malaysia.
Let's go back a little to a programme that Malaysia carried out that could have a bearing on this attack on Sabah. In the 80s and 90s, an initiative called Project IC was conducted in which foreigners from across the borders were issued Identity Cards. Those who received citizenship were Filipinos from southern Philippines and Indonesians from Borneo/Kalimantan. Along with citizenship, came the right to vote and vote they did. Is Malaysia now reaping the reward of the seeds she sowed?
In the meantime, Philippines may extradite Sulu Sultan to face criminal charges in M’sia and Dozens ‘linked’ to Sulu gunmen held for questioning.
Travellers have been urged to exercise caution when visiting east coast of Sabah especially the island resorts. Seven countries have issued travel warnings advising their citizens to stay away from Sabah's eastern coast. The countries are Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Lahad Datu: The real sovereign (Opinion)
- Lahad Datu: Sabahans reject sultanate’s claims to state