Published on: Saturday, July 05, 2014
Kota Kinabalu: It is crucial for Malaysia to reset its relations with the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) with a view to provide security and peace in Sabah as was clearly promised during the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
Former Chief Minister Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee said Malaysia must show serious political will and deploy overwhelming resources to regain the upper hand at the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) or else it will lose more than just prestige.
"Failure is not an option. For Malaysia," said the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President in a statement, Friday.
Yong claimed Malaysia was paying the price for decades of neglect in bolstering its defences; choosing instead to conveniently blame the long coast lines and pump boats.
The launch of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in March last year "at last" gave some hope but the seven battalions promised are still nowhere to be seen.
"Esscom's internal problems have mutated into a rotating command between army and police, and Esscom is still talking and doing census like they are in the dark on what the real problem is," he said.
The MNLF, heading the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) bordering Sabah, would have been Malaysia's best partner in combating cross-border crimes and terrorists, he said.
"But Malaysia burned the bridge to MNLF when Malaysia sent MNLF leader Nur Misuari back to his enemies at Manila instead of to a third country such as a member of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) of which the MNLF is an official observer.
"With Nur Misauri back in their custody, the Philippines not only withdrew charges of rebellion against him but even courted him to contest under the banner of Kampi Party, the ruling government led by President Gloria Arroyo, Misuari's captors!
"There is reason to believe that the Philippines was doing a 'blowback' against Malaysia by turning the MNLF against Malaysia," he said.
As for the recent peace agreement between the Philippines Republic and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), there was little cause for Sabah to celebrate because the areas of operations of the MILF do not border Sabah.
The MILF is active mainly in the eastern and central parts of Mindanao and not the Sulu islands bordering Sabah.
In this respect, Yong said Malaysian authorities were losing the upper hand in their war to combat cross-border terrorists (aka kidnappers) and so-called Sulu intruders because the authorities have lost the confidence of the local people and lost their prestige as a much more superior force.
"The repeated humiliations inflicted on the authorities at the hands of kidnappers who struck ever closer and closer to army and police bases, the 'soldiers-shoot-soldiers' incident outside a Lahad Datu pub where Indonesian GROs ply, the admissions of 'inside job and corruption' amongst our security personnel, the unsolved spate of shootings at 46 premises in Kota Kinabalu and the flimsy explanations by the military and police top brass have made them a laughing stock," Yong contended.
He said that as far as Esscom is concerned, the problem was the blowback of Malaysia's policies, neglect and negligence in dealings with the Philippines, their Sabah Claim and underestimating the willpower of the Sulu people.
The Sulu people, also called Bangsa Moro, have waged wars against the mighty Spanish for 400 years, against superpower Americans for another 50 years and against the Philippines Republic for the last 50 years.
"So Esscom to them is just a nuisance," he said.
"Just because the Sabah Claim has absolutely no legal basis at all, Malaysia has chosen to ignore the many Filipino maps that include Sabah, albeit in a different colour; and to brush aside the sentiments of Suluks that this land called North Borneo is part of their Sulu Sultanate.
"Philippines' maps continue to instill a sense of hope among young Filipinos that their 'Sabah Claim' will become reality some day in the future, and in the meantime take advantage of the skewed immigration policy of Malaysia. Malaysia will be saddled with this 'Sabah-Sulu' issue over the long haul.
"Those who suffer are Sabahans while at stake is the sovereignty of Malaysia as a nation," he said.
Yong said it was a common knowledge that the weapons and ammunitions used by the armed groups like Abu Sayyaf and kidnap gangs are "Made in America", and partly sold by elements of the Philippines military and police to these gangs.
"Kidnap For Ransom (KFR) is a daily occurrence in the Philippines with their own security forces being implicated.
"The Sulu sea area is a lawless region with a thriving drug and small arms trade. The organisation most capable of enforcing law and order in this region is not the corrupt, inefficient and asset-starved Philippine security forces. It is the MNLF," he said.
He said MNLF forces have been successfully deployed against the Abu Sayyaf. "Some people got confused between the various groups in the Southern Philippines. For instance, just after the Sulu intrusion at Lahad Datu in February last year, social media was awash with a photo of MNLF leader Nur Misuari surrounded with hundreds of heavily armed fighters, suggesting that this was the impending invasion force to attack Sabah," he said.
In fact, that was an old photo, found in the Internet, of a massing of MNLF troops before their assault against the Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu area, he said.
Yong was not convinced that Nur Misuari or the MNLF were involved in the kidnappings in Sabah.
"To put it bluntly, if the MNLF as a whole were involved, then the scale and intensity of these attacks would not be just at Tanduo, Lahad Datu or a few kidnappings. Surely, our security intelligence services know this.
"The kidnap gangs are simply bandits who know their way around better than our outstation security forces who, with due respect, eagerly look forward to be posted home," he said.