Wednesday March 13, 2013
Lahad Datu: Smallholder fears suffering losses
LAHAD DATU: For the last one month, smallholder Zairul Upoa has been having sleepless nights as he worries about his newly planted oil palm trees at Kg Tanduo.
He is upset with the Sulu intruders for bringing misery to the lives of those in Tanduo and neighbouring villagers in Tanjung Labian where they had lived in peace for so long.
“I just planted oil palm saplings in January. I don’t know what has become of my land after all the bombing and fighting,” he said.
“I’m sure I will suffer losses,” added Zairul, 63, who was sitting alone in deep thought at a coffeeshop in Lahad Datu town waiting for the day he can again set eyes on the seaside Tanduo village where his father, from Sibutu island in Tawi-Tawi, arrived and settled down during the North Borneo British era.
Zairul, who is an ethnic Bajau, had raised enough money with the help of relatives and friends to buy oil palm saplings for his 18-acre plot next to that of his nephew’s 20-acre plot planted with watermelons.
Since the Sulu terrorists landed in the village on Feb 9 that saw 80 people from 15 families fleeing their homes, Zairul – whose family lived in town here – said they had hoped for the security forces to step in and wipe out the intruders.
The intruders have also brought back sad memories for Zairul whose elder brother was shot by Moro gunmen on Sept 23, 1985, when the town of Lahad Datu came under attack.
“On that day, about 15 gunmen from Southern Philippines landed on boats near the Marine jetty here, attacking the police station and raided the town for about an hour,” he said.
They killed 10 people, including several policemen, and injured 11 locals.
He said the villagers wanted nothing more than to live a peaceful life and settle down at the Felda Sahabat scheme.
Over 2,000 villagers have been displaced and are being sheltered at three community halls since last Tuesday’s bombardment against the Sulu terrorists.