Friday, May 9, 2014

Sabah security compromised in name of ‘brotherhood’

nur misuari
KOTA KINABALU: Umno’s political expedience in Sabah and its ‘involvement’ in Southern Philippines is to blame for the assaults on Sabah security.

While Putrajaya patted its own back for having brokered a peace deal between a Christian-Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Sabah has been a victim of the federal government’s expansionist policies, political lies and the displeasure of splinter armed factions including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and hired mercenaries who are ex-members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Bingkor assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan said the recurrence of cross border crimes, kidnappings and incursions is because of Umno-led Putrajaya’s continued support of rebels and insurgency in southern Philippines in the name of religion and Muslim brotherhood.
“Now, would-be-kidnappers, who may well be “Malaysians” are operating within our borders and can easily collaborate with their countrymen outside our borders.
“They are familiar with our borders and our security system loopholes.
“They probably have better intelligence than our own security.
“Does our intelligence know who are their next targets?” asked Kitingan, who is Bingkor assemblyman.
Kitingan, who has long been urging the Musa Aman administration to set up a Homeland Security Ministry, said that the decades of granting Mykads to illegal immigrants for political expediency had undermined the state and national security and had enabled militants to establish sleeper cells across Sabah.
Sabah has for decades been rumoured to house guerillas and training camps for Muslims militants, particularly the MNLF whose strongholds are in the nearby Sulu archipelago.
During the 1970s, its founder Nur Misuari established himself as the pre-eminent leader of the Sulusand was recognized by the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
But Misuari’s authority was undermined through an internal split in 1978. It led to the establishment of the MILF which based itself on the main island of Mindanao.
The MILF is the group which KL helped broker a deal with Manila.
The deal left MNLF and Nur Misuari, once an erstwhile friend of Malaysia and now a fugitive, out in the cold.
Misuari outplayed
Many loyal former MNLF members living in Sabah villages and in Mindanao are reportedly unhappy with the MILF-Manila deal.
Malaysia is reportedly Bangsamoro’s main international backer and rumours have it that the peace pact has given Malaysia leverage over negotiations with Manila for a slice of the trillions of dollars worth of oil, gas and mineral reserves on Moro ancestral land and the Sulu Sea.
In August 2013 MNLF declared Sarawak and Sabah as part of their new Bangsa Moro Republik (BMR) state.
The announcement came five months after forces loyal to the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III invaded Kampung Tandao in Lahad Datu highlighting a long festering territorial dispute between the Philippines and the Malaysia governments.
On their side, the Kirams staked their ancestral claim based on decades of “lease fee” paid by Putrajaya to the sultanate for Sabah, then known as North Borneo.
The ensuing gun battle left 10 Malaysian security personnel dead and spawned a crackdown on Suluk strongholds in the east coast Sabah and the establishing of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).
In September 2013 MNLF announced that it had activated some 4,000 foreign-trained Tausug ‘cells’ embedded in Sabah and Sarawak.
The group’s spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla reportedly said that the fighters were being mobilised to protect the Tausug (Suluks) community in Sabah, who were were being hunted down by the authorities following the Kampung Tandoa invasion.
Barely two months after the Fontanilla interview, a Taiwanese holidaying in Pom Pom island off Sabah’s east coast was shot dead and his wife was abducted from right under the noses of Putrajaya-controlled Esscom by bandits said to be former MNLF members.
A bristling Home Ministry announced tighter security.
Peace pact backlash
On March 27, Manila saw the high profiled signing of the Bangsamoro Peace Framework Agreement witnessed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and President Benigno Aquino. The peace pact was seen as a ‘political win’ for Najib and Aquino, both reportedly having “a lot of political and diplomatic capital invested in this project”.
Amidst the negotiations and following the signing, which incidentally the OIC has rejected, concerns over a possible backlash have been rife.
On April 2,  less than a week after the signing,  a 29-year-old China national holidaying in Singamata Reef Resort and a Filipina staff were abducted by armed gunmen reportedly from southern Philippines.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday, yet another foreigner was kidnapped in Pulau Balik while the Phillipines army announced two missing tourists who were “on their way back to Sabah” as probable victims of a high sea abduction on April 25.
The latest kidnapping came barely two weeks after Esscom director general Mohamed Mentek warned that groups in southern Philippines were planning wide scale incursions into Sabah waters.
Putrajaya is a red-faced sitting duck.
They appear to be no match against an up-to-speed, finely tuned intelligence and terrorist network armed with the latest artillery and ingenuity.
Days after the April 2 abduction in Singamata Reef Resort, a seasoned Sabah watcher, Joe Fernandez claimed Putrajaya was in cahoots with certain subversive parties in their common desire to IslamiseSabah and Sarawak.
“These people now want to blackmail Putrajaya. These kidnappings are a way for the terrorists to continue blackmailing Putrajaya,” he said.
Calculated plan
Local observers share his view. Many here also believe that the sustained insidious operations are a ‘calculated’ plan involving the Sabah Suluks, Kirams, Manila, Nur Misuari and Sarawak.
One observer believes the assaults in Sabah waters are aimed at undermining a ‘cocky‘ Malaysia “moving into the Asean chair”.
“Putrajaya leaders are cocky (and) in denial. This is calculated. Kidnappings aimed at humiliating KLyou cannot clean your own house but ‘masuk campur hal orang lain’ (interfere in other people’s affairs),” said one observer alluding to Malaysia’s involvement in southern Philippines.
According to the observer, who claimed to have “good ties” in Cagayan, the people in southern Philippines resent Malaysia because “they look down on us”.
Another observer from Sarawak thinks that Manila is using the Kirams to fan the winds of independence in Sarawak and Sabah.
“Hundreds of Suluks in Sabah with IC’s now but are disunited. Winds of independence is (being) fanned in Peninsular, Sarawak and Sabah.
“The Philippine government and Sulus want to take back Sabah with the help of local Suluks.
“Kidnappings (are) only (the) beginning (and aim) to cause Sabah and Sarawakians to lose confidence in the Malaysia government,” said the observer.