By HWN YAUL LEN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
We thought that war was very far away from us but it now happens in Sabah, which is just separated from the Peninsula by the South China Sea. The security forces have launched a major offensive and been trying to exterminate the Sulu gunmen attempting to occupy Sabah by taking tough actions.
The Sulu gunmen sneaked into Lahad Datu on 9 February and vowed to claim the sovereignty of Sabah. The authorities were optimistic, from the peaceful negotiations to repeatedly postponed the negotiation deadline, the government gave the impression that they were full of confidence in settling the problem peacefully. The fact, however, is not the case.
Is it true as the police claimed earlier that the number of Sulu gunmen is only about 100 people? Are they really intruders or armed men who have been in Sabah for a long time? Or, could they be foreign immigrants who have long obtained Malaysian identity cards and were waiting for an opportunity to create chaos?
The police has categorised the problem as an internal security issue, which has in fact clearly pointed out the crux of the problem. It has also further highlighted the seriousness of foreign immigrant issue in Sabah. There are 800,000 Filipino immigrants in Sabah and 200,000 of them have obtained Malaysian citizenship.
Some Filipinos who have long been staying in Sabah are Suluks. If they see Sabah as their own territory, it is possible for them to create chaos when the time comes by quietly working together with the intruders.
The number of Suluks in Sabah is actually unknown. Of course, not all Suluks are armed force members. But it could be more than 180 people to have involved in the incident as we understood. Their equipment is more complete and advanced as we imagined. Definitely, the intrusion was well-planned, or it would not be a problem for the Malaysian security forces to exterminate the 180 gunmen even without deploying armored cars, the Air Force and a huge military force to launch a massive offensive.
The authorities have taken an indifferent attitude towards the immigrant issue in Sabah for many years, which has contributed to the breeding of the problem. Similarly, the huge number of legal and illegal workers in the Peninsula is staggering. Indonesian workers have even occupied some areas and turned them into Indonesian villagers.
Uncontrolled entry of foreign workers or massive operations to legalise illegal workers could lead to a threat to the security of the country and its people. The incident in Sabah today is an opportunity for the authorities to review the immigration issue, as well as a lesson for the framing of foreign worker policy in the Peninsula.