Keep Semporna and Sabah safe

by Captain Hussaini Abdul Karim (Rtd)

In my mind, the Kampong Tanduo, Lahad Datu Sabah incident was just a ‘montage’ and the bigger picture is more about the fate of Sabah and its people.

The question that has been lingering on my mind since I first read the report about the intruders is: “Will it remain status quo or will there be a change?”

The Malaysian Armed Forces has finally demonstrated their prowess and using fighter jets, tanks and artillery they acted to end the standoff after almost two weeks. All the dead from both sides have all been respectfully buried and hopefully, the welfare of their immediate family members that they left behind are taken care of. Those injured are being treated and I hope all parties concerned have learned a valuable lesson from the tragedy. All efforts must now be taken to prevent a repeat of such a tragedy.

Our Armed Forces have proven their capability once again and I am sure the confidence the people have in them remains unchanged.

However, our security forces must not rest on their laurels as there is still plenty of unfinished business for them to sort out.

Their continued presence must still be seen and felt by the people until such time the situation becomes better and the threat is diminished.

As in any incident that involves two sides, especially those that resulted in the loss of lives, there will always be supporters and dissenters. The authorities must be to handle this tricky situation well.

This brings me back to the period about 40 years or so ago on how the Malaysian Armed Forces and the government of Malaysia handled the post emergency and post counter terrorism operations fighting against the communists insurgents.

Overall, development moved from slow to rapid and the pace of modernisation continued. The emphasis then was to keep the country peaceful and harmonious, creating more jobs for the people, create a better economy, building more and better infrastructure, building more schools so that the majority of the young could get an education, improve the transportation service, etc. The rehabilitation process took a very long time.

The situation is now different with a major event, the general election, looming soon. The trauma that the people, especially those from Kampong Tanduo, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Sandakan and all Sabahans in general went through the last two weeks must be cleared and the fear in them must also be overcome.

Needless to say, the remnants, sympathisers, supporters and followers of the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu are now spread all over the state with some hiding in states other than Sabah. Many would probably have gone home. The hardcore amongst them may be planning to retaliate to avenge the death of their comrades at the hands of the Malaysian security forces. This cannot be ruled out.

A proper heart and mind campaign should have already been planned and implemented.

Flushing of illegals should be carried out not just in Sabah but nationwide and those that have committed crimes must be tried and punished.

The police and the immigration must be strict in carrying out their duties and overall, the security forces, police and the military, must be alert at all times.

On hindsight, being an optimist, I saw an opportunity in the Lahad Datu standoff. That incident actually provided an opportunity or a window for negotiations to be carried out with the so-called Sulu Sultan to clear once and for all the impasse and their claim on Sabah. I am not too sure if there were any leaders or senior government representative sent to meet with the so-called Sulu Sultan at a neutral or an undisclosed location to negotiate a deal or any deal.

Nevertheless, our leaders and politicians from both sides of the divide must now be extra sensitive and be more careful when making statements and they must not politicise this whole incident.

No leaders or politicians should be pointing fingers at anyone, blaming and alleging anyone as the instigator or cause of the incident. Everyone should start closing ranks from now on and contest the general election with pride, a competitive spirit and with dignity.


This article first appeared in The Malaysian Insider and the views expressed are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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