Lahad Datu – a dangerous game

Why haven’t the Sabah police acted against rumoured disturbances within the state following the ‘siege’ by militants in Lahad Datu?

LAHAD DATU: The current drama in Lahad Datu following the incursion of armed men from the Philippines and the government’s “gentle” approach to the situation could backfire on the Barisan Nasional leadership if it is indeed a tactical strategy to scare Sabahans into voting for the ruling coalition.

“If this is the BN game, then it is a dangerous strategy,” said State Reform Party (STAR) chief Jeffrey Kitingan.

“It [the strategy] is a double-edged sword because it can backfire and cause the people to vote against the BN for its obvious failure in flexing the [government's] military muscle for the sake of national dignity and sovereignty.

“If the government cannot protect our country and deal with this problem in a way that will enhance our standing as a sovereign nation, maybe it’s time for Malaysia to ask for international intervention,” Jeffrey said, alluding to the stand-off between police and the militants.

He was commenting on widespread rumours that the government’s “no-bloodshed strategy” could be a tactic to counter the growing political uncertainties in the state.

The protracted “negotiations” between the police and the armed militants – holed up in Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu – is testing the patience of locals and stoking the ire of villagers barred from entering the cordoned-off areas to carry out their daily routine and economic activities.

It has also not helped that details of the “negotiations” have been withheld from the public, with the mainstream media “advised” to downplay the issue.

Left in the cold, Sabahans have been accessing online portals, blogs, tweets and social media for updates on the incursions, leaving many to spin their own theories over the government’s handling of the issue.

Said Jeffrey: “Why is there little media coverage in the government-controlled mainstream media although the intrusion is bordering on an act of war?

“Isn’t Sabah important enough for all Malaysians to be kept posted on the developments of the standoff? This is not a localised issue.”

“Also, why are the police not taking action on rumours of disturbances in other areas in Sabah? Is it because these rumours are being fired up by [BN] cybertroopers?

“Is this whole thing a scripted charade to frighten the voters?” he asked.

Sabah not a ‘fixed deposit’

It has been more than 10 days since the armed militants – rumoured to be 400 men – first landed in Lahad Datu on Feb 9.

Villagers at Felda Sahabat, where these bandits are holed up, fearing that they were members of the fearsome Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, immediately fled with their families.

They were expecting the army to clamp down on the seige quickly and to be able to return to the homes and routine.

But the stand-off remains with Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein reportedly saying yesterday that the “situation is under control” and that they were “dealing” with it.

But curious questions over whether the police are equipped to handle such “negotiations with militants” and why the military has been sidelined in these negotiations have only stoked rumours of top-level political “intervention” and an opportunistic tactic by BN in view of its sinking popularity in Sabah.

Lahad Datu – a dangerous game
Pushparani Thilaganathan and Queville To
February 20, 2013 – FMT

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