Sunday February 17, 2013
Time running out for Filipino gunmen
By P.K. KATHARASON, MUGUNTAN VANAR and RUBEN SARIO
LAHAD DATU: Time is running out for more than 100 Filipino gunmen holed up at the seaside village of Tanduo as Malaysian security officials declared that the negotiations were over.
Police, army and maritime security forces have tightened their circle around the village within Felda Sahabat 17 after negotiations with the gunmen, who called themselves the royal armed forces of the Sulu Sultanate, came to a halt.
Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Salleh Mat Rasid confirmed in Kota Kinabalu that the negotiations were over and the authorities were ready to deport the armed group back to southern Philippines.
“We are in the process of deporting them home,” he said after a walkabout with Sabah police chief Comm Datuk Hamza Taib at the Jesselton Point boat terminal here yesterday while taking part in the nationwide Ops Selamat 2 programme in conjunction with the Chinese New Year celebrations here.
On when the group, which is believed to include five women, will be deported, Comm Hamza said: “Soon.”
Both he and Salleh declined to say how the group would be deported.
At Felda Sabahat 17, where the group was holed up, General Operations Force personnel watched closely as seven Filipino gunmen approached a well near a kongsi to fetch water.
One of them is believed to have asked why the security forces were stationed close to the mosque where they camped.
Meanwhile, Salleh also said Malaysia would not entertain the group's demands that it be recognised as the Sulu sultanate army and not be deported from Sabah.
“We have told them to voice their demands through the proper channels,” he added.
Hamza denied that a descendant of the Sulu sultanate and a relative of the armed group leader, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, was assisting in the negotiations.
“There is no personality with such a name involved,” he added.
He also dismissed talk that the group had raised the Philippines flag in the village and denied reports from the Philippine media that about 1,000 more armed gunmen were on their way to Sabah from the island of Tawi Tawi.
“We have the navy, marine police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency maintaining security in our waters,” Hamza said.