Sunday March 10, 2013
Lahad Datu: Displaced villagers fear their houses will be looted or bombed
LAHAD DATU: When electricity supply reached their homes last month, the 200-odd families at Kampung Tanjung Batu and Kampung Tanjung Labian went on a shopping spree to get electrical appliances for their homes.
They bought television sets, refrigerators, fans and even air-conditioners.
Most of them are oil palm smallholders and were just starting to enjoy these luxuries when a group of Sulu gunmen appeared in their remote coastal settlement.
Acting on the advice of security forces, the villagers hastily left their homes, leaving behind their new electricial appliances as well as vehicles, for the community halls around the Felda Sahabat area.
“At first three of them appeared. They looked haggard and hungry and asked for water and food. Then they went away,” said evacuee Soraibah Ahmad.
Her family was among the 20 families from Kampung Tanjung Labian encamped at the Cenderawasih community hall since Monday.
They are aware of the aerial bombardment of nearby Kampung Tanduo when security forces launched their offensive against the Sulu gunmen five days ago.
Soraibah said most of the families from Kampung Tanjung Batu and Tanjung Labian moved to the community halls on Sunday and returned the following day to see at least 30 Tausug-speaking intruders in their area.
“We initially thought they were soldiers because they wore uniforms but they were in slippers so we knew they were the intruders,'' Soraibah said.
The military fatigues worn by many of the intruders were dripping wet.
She said this led the villagers to suspect the gunmen had managed to slip past the tight security cordon around Kampung Tanduo where they had been holed up since Feb 9 and and went to the sea and swam right to Kampung Tanjung Batu, about 2km away.
Soraibah said the villagers did not see any weapon on the gunmen, who asked for food.
Most of the ethnic Bajau families at Tanjung Labian and Tanjung Batu are inter-related and when word got round again of even more intrusion as security forces expanded their hunt for the Sulu gunmen from Kampung Tanduo to Kampung Tanjung Batu and Kampung Labian the villagers fled their homes for the second time.
Housewife Saadah Ali, a sister-in-law of Soraibah, said they were worried that the intruders would break into their homes to loot or the security forces would bomb their villages.
“We know our police and soldiers are doing their best but we can't help being worried. We can only hope our homes and properties are safe,'' she added.