By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
Early in the morning I received this message on the defensive launched against the gunmen in Lahad Datu.
I was pondering: With peaceful avenues now exhausted, it's time to resolve the crisis with force.
All I could do was to wish that the operation could be carried out smoothly and the mission of safeguarding our territorial integrity fully achieved.
At the same time, I still hoped the gunmen would lay down their arms and surrender so that no lives would be sacrificed unnecessarily.
To many of us, Malaysia is always a land of peace and the country has never involved itself in a war for so many decades.
Our most brilliant accomplishment has been our ability to ensure that all Malaysians can live on this land peacefully and well shielded from dangers.
Unfortunately, the intrusion taking place on the east coast of Sabah has served as a wake-up call for many, that peace can actually be very fragile and could come under challenge and intimidation at imes.
Even though the gunfight took place across the South China Sea in Sabah, we still feel worried about the residents there whose day-to-day routines have been disrupted and who have to live in constant fear as a result of the intrusion over the past few weeks. Eight policemen have been sacrificed.
Right now Malaysians must come to the realisation that the peace we are now enjoying should not be taken for granted. Nothing comes more important than unity among the people.
The incident, at the same time, has also highlighted the truth that Malaysians are not adequately prepared for external threats.
In a society where political ideologies have been so distinctly polarised, anything can be perceived along such a dividing line, even in the face of gruesome external threats. How foolish and perilous!
The first reactions after the incident were not to inspire collective patriotism but to initiate an endless round of war of words, dismissing the country's police force as weak and lack of confidence.
Over the cyberspace, everyone assumed the roles of master strategists and military experts lashing out at the authorities as if the country was embroiled in a tough civil war.
i'm not trying to side anyone but anything we do must be based on common sense and rational thinking with the country's interests above all else.
Whenever we slam the government for being too soft, we should bear in mind that any military action is employed only as a last resort after all other peaceful avenues have been exhausted and proven ineffective. Moreover, military actions must also conform to certain requirements under the Geneva Convention.
Of course, there is a limit to how far we can push our compromise and negotiations, and once all peaceful means have been exhausted, defensive counter-attacks will be seen as essential.
Some have hammered the authorities for deploying police cops to confront the intruders, but please be informed that these policemen sent to the frontline were no ordinary police cops patrolling our streets. They were specially trained, combat-ready VAT69 squad members capable of battling terrorists.
In addition, the deployment of police force was also meant to evade possible expansion of conflicts with our neighbouring country.
Some others questioned why AirAsia civilian aircraft was used to transport army personnel to Sabah without realising that civilians jets are superior in cruising speeds, passenger loads and vast experiences in flying designated routes. It is common to see civilian aircraft deployed during a war, leaving the military aircraft limited in numbers to transport military equipment and supplies.
Sure enough the government has exposed certain weaknesses in this incident, such as lax coastal defence, lack of knowledge on the separatist movements in southern Philippines, and the overly relaxed (probably intentionally orchestrated) immigration policy, among others.
Even as the gunfight has come to a halt and the stress somewhat relieved for the time being, menaces from Sulu gunmen are still very much alive. They could have infiltrated deep into Sabah while other separatists in southern Philippines continue to watch prowlingly over the state.
It is a pity that lives have been sacrificed in the Lahad Datu incident. That said, Malaysians should emerge united from this unfortunate incident so as to avert bigger misfortunes.