Finally – It takes the lives of eight cops for PM Najib and BN to get it right
Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has given the green light for the army to begin the attack on armed Filipino intruders still hiding out in Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Najib - who has come under severe criticism for indecisive handling of the crisis - said in a media statement that the move was necessary to defend Malaysia's sovereignty.
Last night on Twitter, he had called on Malaysians to rally behind the security forces and hoped for a quick end to the crisis.
No parliamentary consensus: Rising death toll
The Malaysian army began its attack at 7am. Sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard while fighter jets could be seen circling the small coastal village in East Malaysia which has become famous over the past 3 weeks.
A group of some 200 ragtag Filipino men claiming to be members of the Sulu Sultan's army had managed to slip past Malaysia's security surveillance, landing by boats to lay claim to the land.
Refusing to leave, they defied a Feb 22 deadline given by the Malaysian authorities. Two major skirmishes on Friday and Saturday night have led to at least 28 deaths, of whom 8 were Malaysian policemen.
Shocked by the climbing death toll and worried that hostilities might spread if left unchecked, Malaysians had demanded that Najib resolve the crisis swiftly.
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition did not mince their words at a Monday press conference, demanding that Najib did his job and checked the rising anxiety not just in Sabah but starting to creep into the rest of the country.
They urged him to convene an emergency roundtable in Parliament to discuss the best solution with the least loss of lives.
"We are disappointed with the weak leadership shown by Dato Seri Najib Razak, the Home Minister and Defense Minister, whose responsibility is to keep Malaysia's security intact. It is time that the PM realizes that his priority is to defend Malaysia, its people and the warriors on the front line," said Anwar.
Going it alone: Stocking up for emergency
However it looks like Najib has chosen to go it alone.
Police confirmed last night that 7 battalions have been sent to Lahad Datu.
Rumours of sightings of armed intruders have rocked Malaysia, especially Sabah state, where reports of groups being spotted in Tuaran, Ranau and Sandakan have sparked a mini panic.
"People are stocking up on food, essentials, fearing emergency," a Sabah-based source told Malaysia Chronicle
Malaysian authorities have declared two villages Kampung Tanjung Batu and Tanjung Labian ‘red zone’ areas. They began relocating some 150 residents late on Sunday night to a nearby community hall. The 2 villages are near to Kampung Tanduo, the centre of the standoff between security forces and the armed Sulu group here.
Protest in Manila against M'sian attack
Meanwhile, the leader of the armed Azzimudie Kiram confirmed during an interview with ABS-CBN's dzMM radio that Malaysian forces were using fighter jets in the latest attack against them.
Azzimudie also expressed disappointment that Philippines President Benigno Aquino had not made greater efforts to seal a peaceful solution, only advising them to surrender. Azzimudie and his men have previously vowed to stay.
"They cannot frighten us because we are fighting for our rights – the rights of the Bangsa Sulu and in general, the Filipinos. That is, if the Philippine government still consider us Filipinos," said Azzimudie.
In Manila, a team of police and journalists are gathering outside the Malaysian embassy, where a protest is expected to be held.