Hornbill Unleashed

March 9, 2013

At edge of a cliff

Lim Sue Goan

The security forces have finally launched attacks on the Sulu gunmen in Sabah. After eight police officers were killed, exterminating them seems to be the only option. There should not be other considerations as we have to safeguard the country’s security and dignity.

The people, as well as the ruling and alternative coalitions, must put aside political controversies and disagreements to back and motivate the security forces.

It is unfortunate that the intrusion of the Sulu gunmen has turned into a deadly standoff. From a positive point of view, however, if the standoff is ended and encourages the government to develop a firm security policy in Sabah after recognising the fact that the security in Sabah has been at the edge of cliff, it can help prevent Sabah from falling into greater trouble.

According to reports from Sin Chew Daily frontline reporters, I found factors that could lead to permanent turbulence in Sabah, including a large number of illegal immigrants; poverty; the coastline in Sabah is too long, making it easy for gunmen to sneak in; a large number of uncontrolled floating villages and gunmen can easily sneak through mountain areas.

Sabah has a wealth of resources, fertile land and beautiful scenery. It is also a diving paradise. However, inappropriate policy has exposed its ugly side. For example, foreigners can easily obtain identity cards and floating villages are filled with garbage.

The wealth of Sabah does not only attract interests of local people, but also the greedy eyes of armed groups in the southern Philippines. The Abu Sayyaf earlier kidnapped foreign tourists in Sabah and now, the Sulu gunmen came to claim for sovereignty.

After years of wars, the southern Philippines has become poor and barren. Together with the peace agreement signed between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government of the Philippines, the Sulu gunmen, therefore, shifted their target to Sabah, with the hope to gain status recognition from the Philippine government or getting benefits from Malaysia by making trouble in Sabah.

The Malaysia military power is more than enough to exterminate the Sulu gunmen. However, we must be wary of other possible intrusions. In fact, similar tidings have been spread.

In addition, another armed group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), might also sneak into Sabah in the name of providing medical assistance. These heinous gunmen are not afraid of death. If they launch attacks to take revenge, it will be difficult to end the conflict.

The gunmen could lurk in floating villages and mountain areas, exhausting the security forces hunting for them.

Although the Suluks living in Sabah love peace, once the conflict continues and affects their livelihood, they might sympathise with the Sulu gunmen. We should never forget that poverty is a breeding ground for terrorism.

The attitude of the Philippine government is crucial. The Philippine government does not recognise Jamalul Kiram III, the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan, but at the same time, it can do nothing against him. The move by the Sulu gunmen to make trouble in Sabah can reduce the trouble of the Philippine government. Philippine President Benigno Aquino is not a responsible president, as we can see that he had handled the Manila hostage incident very poorly. Therefore, would he be able to solve the conflict in Sabah?

Aquino will face a greater pressure if Filipinos sympathise with the Sulu gunmen.

Therefore, the major offensive is just a start and the authorities must prevent the incident from heading towards a negative direction.

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