Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Praying for quick end to Lahad Datu standoff

Farmers and oil palm smallholders are praying for a quick end to the standoff that is entering its second week between Malaysian security forces and an armed Sulu group.

They have been unable to enter the vicinity of Kampung Tanduo at Felda Sahabat 17, some 170km from this east coast town, to harvest their oil palm and other produce, such as water melons.

A farmer who tried to enter the tight security cordon surrounding the heavily armed gunmen was turned back by the police early yesterday.

This was because the police feared the food supplies he was carrying could fall into the hands of the gunmen.

The farmer, who wanted to be known only as Ghafur, said he was trying to get to his oil palm smallholding for his twice-a-month harvest.

He was bringing along food supplies to last him a week in his smallholding.

Police officials advised smallholders not to enter the cordoned off area around Kampung Tanduo, where the so-called Royal Sulu Sultanate Army had raised yellow flags with a lion insignia outside a surau.

Interviewed by the Philippines' media, group leader Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram said they were in possession of all kinds of weapons.

These include M-14, M-16, M203 and Baby Armalite assault rifles.

The five women who came with them were in charge of preparing meals.

The group, from the Tausug and Bajau communities from Jolo, Basilan and Tawi Tawi, had been landing in batches since Feb 9.

Malaysian security forces cordoned off the area on Feb 12.

The 15 families at Kampung Tandua have fled the area, leaving their farms unattended.

Most of them are staying with relatives and friends at the nearby Tanjung Labian settlement.

In KLUANG, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein expressed his confidence that the standoff would end soon.

He said the situation at Felda Sahabat 17 was under control and security forces were keeping a close eye on the rebel group.

He added that there had not been any untoward incident, either involving the gunmen, security forces or the villagers in the area.

“We want to avoid any bloodshed as we believe the matter can be resolved peacefully,” he told reporters at the Paloh MCA Chinese New Year open house at SJK(C) Paloh yesterday.

He added that the security forces were in the midst of deporting the gunmen back to their country of origin.

Hishammuddin reiterated that the gunmen were neither militants nor belonged to any terrorist organisation.

“The group's presence is not a threat to Sabah or Malaysian security and our police have things under control,” he said.



Post a Comment