March 5, 2013
Lahad Datu Incursion: Our Leaders have failed not just Sabahans
By Din Merican
Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I had tea with a Semenanjung (West Malaysia) man with his wife who is a Sabahan lady. He was seething with anger over what is happening in Lahad Datu. Come to think of it, I am now not sure if he was angry or was just expressing utter disappointment in the state of our country.
Our tea conversation started with our worry over the high incidents of street crimes and the failure of the Home Ministry to curb it. It is now almost a daily occurrence that someone gets snatched, slashed and snatched, and crashed and snatched even in locked cars at traffic lights. This is manifest that the Police have failed in upholding their pledge under the Police Act - the protection of life and property.
Then the topic became more heated when my friend’s wife, the Sabahan lady, said that our leaders have failed us in more ways than one. She said Malaysians in Semenanjung no longer feel safe within the borders of the country, and,as a Sabahan, she is now petrified that her home state can be so easily “invaded” by a ragtag army from Southern Philippines.
She recalled that some three weeks ago, the Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, expelled an Australian Senator Nick Zenophon because he was a threat to the national security of the country, but defended the presence of the Sulu gunmen as somewhat of a peaceful delegation. And now what has happened?
She then asked rhetorically – Where is our Malaysian army? Where is our Malaysian Navy? Where is our Scorpene submarine? We spend billions in defence and we can’t even ward off a rag tag unsophisticated group of criminals from across the border.
It is meaningless for Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi (left) to appear on the front page of national newspapers dressed in army fatigues, whereas we have allowed one hot spot in Lahad Datu to expand to Sampoerna and Kunak. And yet our Ministers say it is only 3 locations. ONLY?
We were then joined by another couple from Sabah, the husband is a former Policeman turned private sector lawyer and the wife a former magistrate in Sabah. Both of them were very certain of whom they hold responsible – our government leaders. All were very sympathetic to the policemen who were killed and their families. “We grieve for them but their deaths could have been avoided if the politicians had taken things more seriously and are not busy politicising this matter” said the lawyer husband.
He pointed out the multiple crimes committed by these Filipino criminals – illegal entry, bearing and using firearms, kidnapping, murder etc etc, all these latter crimes punishable with capital punishment. He mocked our Foreign Minister, Information Minister and all government Ministers for falling into the trap of characterising these criminals as the Sulu Sultanate army. They are not even recognised by the Philippines Government and yet we are ever too eager to treat them as if they are a legitimate army.
On the night the 2 Policemen were killed, the country’s Information Minister, Rais Yatim, was on national TV at the Malaysian Film Festival receiving an award of his own creation, insensitive to the fact that the nation’s security personnel are battling their lives for the country.
There is a news blanket on what is happening in Sabah whereas entertainment programs continue to lull the public into complacency, into a false sense of security oblivious to the fact that the security forces are facing clear and present danger from this highly explosive situation.
When 911 happened in New York, all TV stations in the USA made live reporting hour by hour as if the whole of USA was under attack. The incident received worldwide attention and sympathy. Here in Malaysia, we have an invasion-type criminals terrorising the state of Sabah, and yet our leaders make it appear as if it does not affect the country. Is Sabah a hinterland of no significance to the Federation of Malaysia? What does being part of a federation mean if the Federal government cannot protect Sabah as part of its sovereignty? This is the central issue in this incident.
“It is also a mistake to keep on harping about these criminals being Sulus” said the Sabahan wife. “Just as Malaysia is a multiracial country that we are proud of, Sabahans too consist of many indigenous groups including Malay, Chinese,Kadazan, Murut, Bajau and Sulu. Thus, focusing on the Sulu will isolate the Sulu people to feel uneasy and forced to take sides” she said. In Sampoerna, it was the Sulu community that disarmed the infiltrating criminals. So, there are good patriotic Malaysian Sulus just as there are patriotic Malaysian Indians, Chinese, Kadazan, Murut and others.
On the other hand the country’s leaders from Semenanjung seemed ignorant in not involving the TYT of Sabah who is a Sulu, or for that matter the Sabah UMNO Chief Shafie Afdal who is also a Sulu, in seeking a resolution to this problem. The best asset available in Sabah are not used, instead the Semenanjung Ministers are busy posing for photographs!
Then the lawyer husband made an interesting comment that this incident would not have happened in the time when Dato Ramli Yusuff was Police Commissioner Sabah and Brig-Gen Yasin was Army Commander Sabah. I asked him why he said that. He then narrated a fact unknown to most Malaysians that after the Sipadan hostage incident in 1999-2000, Dato Ramli became Commissioner Sabah from 2001- 2004.
At the request of the then Chief Minister Chong Kah Kiat, Dato Ramli (above) formed a special Task Force with the Army Commander of Sabah to rid the state of illegal Indonesian and Filipino immigrants. Hundreds of thousands illegal immigrants were driven out of Sabah. Ramli was so successful that the then State Government of Sabah awarded him the Dato’ Pahlawan Sabah for truly taking care of Sabah’s territorial borders.
But little did Dato Ramli realise that he was digging his own grave by doing that because those whom he drove out of Sabah were not just illegal immigrants. These were illegal immigrants issued with NRIC masterminded in a BiroTataNegara (BTN) project to secure Sabah votes for BN. This is now revealed in the on-going RCI on the NRIC issue. It is a surprise that neither Chong Kah Kiat nor Dato Ramli are asked to give evidence in this RCI.
So, for doing that “good deed” for Sabah, Dato Ramli was summoned back to KL on a lateral transfer as CPO Pahang. In 2006, when Dato Ramli became the Director CCID, he was aware of the fragile coastal line around the Tanjung Labian area. To prevent illegal human traffic and arms flow, he conducted an aerial survey over the area called Den Haven in Tanjung Tebian in full uniform escorted by 4 other uniformed police personnel. For doing that, then IGP Musa Hassan and A-G Gani Patail charged Dato Ramli for unlawfully using a Police Cessna for personal use. That was how insidious A-G Gani Patail behaved towards Dato Ramli in order to bring him down.
Dato Ramli was protecting the Sabah borders and yet he was charged just because A-G Gani Patail (right) couldn’t find enough things to charge Ramli for in that infamous RM 27Million Cop Story. After that, no Commissioner Sabah dared to do a similar aerial survey and that explained the intrusion into the Sabah borders that we see today undetected by our security forces.
Life has a strange way of turning a full circle. Today, we know that Dato Ramli was cleaning up and saving Sabah while A-G Gani Patail, a Sabahan, was and is preoccupied saving crooks and criminals close to the corridors of power. Today we know some truth, not all, but some truth about how the NRIC project in Tun Mahathir’s time and perpetuated by other BN leaders have proven costly to Sabah.
We mourn for the loss of lives of our security personnel. They are indeed heroes and should be honoured as such. Malaysians should be united in that. However, we cannot absolve our leaders for the mistakes they committed in causing these losses.
We cannot forgive the Home Minister Hishamamuddin Hussein, the Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi and the Information Minister Rais Yatim for all their bungling acts. Ultimately, the buck must stop with the Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, and the government of the day that he leads that has caused our sovereignty to be trifled with and our territorial integrity violated.
As we approach GE 13, the likes of Dato’ Ramli and other former military leaders must come forth to seek election as the people’s representative. These are the people whom we can trust to protect our country and our sovereignty when our current leaders have failed not just Sabahans but all Malaysians!