Sunday March 10, 2013
Lahad Datu: Where life may never be the same again
Reports by P.K.KATHARASON, MUGUNTAN VANAR, RUBEN SARIO, PHILIP GOLINGAI, SHAHANAAZ HABIB, SHAUN HO, SIRA HABIBU, YUEN MEIKENG, KOW KWAN YEE, AUSTIN CAMOENS, EDMUND NGO, ELWEEN LOKE, STEPHANIE LEE, LOSHANA K. SHAGAR AND NICHOLAS CHENG; with photos by AZHARM AHFOF,NORMIMIE DIUN and M. AZHAR ARIF. VIDEOS by ARON RAJ and IBRAHIM HARRIS
LAHAD DATU: Life may never be the same again for many Sabahans in the east coast especially in areas directly bearing the brunt of acts of terror in a war zone-like environment.
Since the intrusion of the armed Sulu group in Tanduo village about a month ago, more than 2,000 villagers have been displaced and the lives of thousands of families have been disrupted.
People are hoping that the gruesome war stories of brutal killings and daily gunfire heard in southern Philippines will not land on Sabah shores as the Filipino migrants know too well what the 40-year Moro conflict had done to their lives.
“We came here with our parents fleeing the Mindanao war. We live a peaceful life but now we fear the war has followed us. All we want is to make an honest living. Now this has happened,'' said a 45-year-old Suluk housewife.
She and several other local Suluks interviewed admitted that there were locals among them who felt that they had a right to stay in Sabah which they claimed was once their ancestral land.
Semporna's Simunul village fisherman Abdul Rahman, 50, said the armed intrusion had put local Suluks in a difficult position and their future remained uncertain.
“I am afraid to go to sea. My sister has moved out of Simunul and she and her family do not dare move back. What awaits them, I am not sure,” he said.
“We are afraid of the intruders too even though we are of the same ethnic origin. Our safety comes first,” said foodstall operator Noraishah Idris, 30, adding that she was unsure how the Tanduo bombing and the Semporna attack will change their peaceful lives.
Bajau villager Damin Abdullah, 34, who sells gravestones and is a father of eight, said he was not sure if things would get better and was worried about how to feed his family.
“I am not sure how my life will change. I don't know if it will be permanent, but I am worried,” said Semporna villager Mohd Farid, 17.
Several other Filipinos of Suluk origin said that they have been receiving text messages from their relatives and friends in southern Philippines to support the intruders but have ignored such messages.
“We are loyal Malaysians. Our loyalty is to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Yang di-Pertua Negeri,'' said Abdul Rahman Datu Ismail, who heads the Sabah Ethnic Suluk Association.
“The act of terror caught us by surprise. We are deeply saddened by what is happening,'' he said, adding that it would have a negative effect on the local Suluk community who despise the acts of violence against police personnel whose families are now grieving.
“Although life has been crawling back to normal in many of the east coast towns, apprehension lingers over reprisal attacks from intruders across the border,” he said.
Semporna Travel and Tour Operator Association chairman Ramsyah Abdul Hamid, 40, said he hoped that people would not be wary of local Suluks as few could tell them apart from the intruders.
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Apprehension lingers over reprisal attacks from intruders