AS THIS column is being written, there are scores of intruders in this country. No one knows the exact number in Tanduo in Lahad Datu town in Sabah, but it varies depending on where it is coming from. But our inspector general of police says the public should not be influenced by online reports on the standoff, which he said were being spread through social media networks.
From what has been reported, they are subjects of the Sulu sultan and the latest is that he has asked the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to help his followers who are running out of provisions.
According to The Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III wrote to the UNCHR in
Manila on Feb 20, asking for protection for 250 members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” whose lives, he said, were threatened by a food blockade thrown by Malaysia.
Jamalul has also written to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei asking for help in resolving the standoff in Tanduao peacefully. The UNCHR was furnished with a copy of Jamalul’s letter to the sultan of Brunei, also dated Feb 20.
In the absence of official bulletins or announcements from the police, what choices have the people got? Even the exact numbers are hazy and on the Net, it varies from 100 to 400.
Since our authorities have no control over the press in the Philippines, it has gone to town with its stories and commentaries. The Philippine Daily Inquirer also says Malaysia is in a no-win situation as a result of the standoff in Sabah.
“If it uses deadly force on a small group of armed Filipino Muslims now holed up in the village … members of the fiercest of Philippine Moro tribe, the Tausogs of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, will retaliate.
“If, on the other hand, Malaysia compromises with the armed group purportedly belonging to the Sultanate of Sulu, it will be perceived as a weakling by its neighbours.
But that’s not all. A commentary by Ramon Tulfo in the same newspaper makes compelling reading because we are not talking about just the men and women who arrived by boat three weeks ago, but something more sinister. He says that even before the landing of 200 men in Lahad Datu, the Sulu sultanate had sent armed men in small groups to Sabah to escape notice from authorities.
“The armed groups are being coddled by Tausogs in the Malaysian state,” he wrote.
That claim should make every Malaysian sit up and ask: “What the hell is happening to our country.” All we know is that the IGP has told us that the “situation is under control and we know what we are doing.”
And Tulfo adds insult to injury by saying: “When the (Philippines) government was fighting the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the 1970s through the 1980s, Malaysia was secretly supporting the rebellion in the South. Weapons coming from Libya and other Middle East countries passed through Malaysia on their way to the MNLF. Now, it seems the shoe is on the other foot. The law of karma is being played out.”
As much as we want to heed the advice by the IGP not to listen to what is happening in the social media scene, those who are Net-savvy, cannot avoid but read news portals, many of which are reliable.
After all, the information above did not come from newly-set platform by some anti-national elements. It comes from The Daily Inquirer which is one of the most widely read and respected newspapers in that country.
While Malaysians do understand the need to be secretive of security operations, what they are asking for is daily updates on a situation that threatens the country as a whole. It cannot be dismissed as a local problem as it involves the sovereignty of this country.
No one wants bloodshed. No one wants to see dead bodies. No one wants to tell the police how to deal with the problem – they know best as they are trained for such purposes. No one even knows their motives or what they want. No one knows if they have taken hostages or have occupied strategic positions in the area. In short, we have been blanked by the silence of officialdom.
No one is asking for operational details but it will be a relief to all Malaysians if we are told the truth, and nothing but the truth.
· R. Nadeswaran is editor (special and investigative reporting) at theSun. Comments: email@example.com