Kerajaan Malaysia melakukan segala yang mungkin untuk mengelakkan kecederaan
Great restraint by the authorities
By A. Jalil Hamid | firstname.lastname@example.org
New Straits Times LAHAD DATU TRAGEDY: The government did all it could to prevent loss of life on both sides
AS Malaysians mourn the loss of two elite police commandos in the Lahad Datu stand-off that also left 12 Sulu intruders dead, public attention is being turned to how quickly our security forces could have ended the incursion and to restore peace and public order.
Despite no curfew order being issued, the normally busy town was deserted on Friday as shops and banks pulled their shutters and people stayed indoors, fearing for the worst as word of the deadly clashes spread like wildfire.
There has been a growing concern among Lahad Datu residents and elsewhere throughout the land about their safety and the security of the country since news of the incursion hit the country.
People have the right to feel safe and move around freely doing their business or tending to their farms or going to schools. We cannot allow that right to be taken away by anyone, especially by foreign elements intruding into our territory and undermining our sovereignty.
Nonetheless, the Malaysian government's patient approach to the three-week siege by armed southern Filipino rebels has been quite proper. The government has said from the outset it wanted this occupation to be resolved peacefully and amicably and that there should not be any bloodshed.
In fact, the invaders were given food out of goodwill, hoping that they would agree to pack up and go home voluntarily. But that gesture was not reciprocated and as days turned to weeks, the intruders were adamant about staying on to fight for their Sabah claims.
Still the government was quite accommodating, extending the deadlines several times for them to leave, hoping that bloodshed could be averted. Far from being perceived as weak, a negotiated and peaceful settlement was the preferred option then for the government.
But Kuala Lumpur's patience has its limits.
Still, Friday's gunfire was not provoked by our police commandos. Rather, our men were ambushed by the intruders who strayed from their base camp.
Following Friday's shoot-out, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has issued an ultimatum to the invaders: surrender or face the consequences of their actions.
There are no more avenues for negotiations, or a free boat ride back to their homeland.
We should, however, not underestimate the firepower of the intruders. In the 1990s, a group of Sulu people landed in Semporna and bombed police stations and ran amok in the town.
In previous cases, they infiltrated into the local population and even married locals.
The rebel group in Lahad Datu now entered the country illegally by batches, probably with inside help from their families in Lahad Datu. They might have been in Lahad Datu for two or three months before they regrouped to wage their war against Malaysia.
More interestingly, the Sulu group could have some links with the Malaysian opposition, according to Friday's report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Citing Philippine intelligence sources, the daily said the opposition was one of three key groups responsible for encouraging the territorial claim by the Sulu group, leading to its subsequent incursion into Sabah.
The report, quoting Philippine defence and diplomatic sources, alleged that a politician allied with opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had spoken to the family of Jamalul Kiram III Agbimuddin Kiram, the self-proclaimed Sulu sultan, who is pressing for a centuries-old claim to Sabah.
The politician, claimed the newspaper, was running for a post in Sabah.
"Apparently, this politician was one of those who spoke with the Kirams. He supposedly gave the opposition's support to the Kirams' claim to Sabah," the daily quoted a source as saying.
The report claimed that the politician had met the Sulu group in November last year, following which the group decided to "reclaim Sabah or at least ask for a compensation for Sabah that is commensurate to the land's value today, and for the royal family to be given due recognition by Malaysia".
Little wonder why Anwar's loyalist, Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-president Tian Chua, was quick to label the Lahad Datu shoot-out as a conspiracy hatched by Umno to divert the attention and frighten the people.
While the families of the two slain commandos buried the national heroes yesterday, there was an outright condemnation of Chua's insensitive remarks.
Chua should learn when or what to say, and not try to earn cheap publicity out of the tragedy.
Police commandos standing guard outside Kampung Tanduo yesterday, about a kilometre from where the group of Sulu intruders are holed up. Bernama pic