Thursday, March 14, 2013

Philippine Navy Nabs Thirty-five

Photos by PDRM Facebook page

The Philippine Navy has seized firearms and ammunition from 35 suspected followers of the Sulu sultanate, one of them a woman. Navy spokesperson Lt-Commander Gregory Fabic said the patrol ship BRP Mariano Alvarez and the gunboat BRP Jose Andrada intercepted two boats west of Andolingan Island in Tawi-Tawi at about 6:30 AM Wednesday morning. It has yet to be determined if the boats were sailing to Sabah to reinforce the Sulu army currently locked in battle with Malaysian security forces.

Malay daily Kosmo today front-paged the same story but with a twist. The thirty-five individuals were escaping from Sabah. If this newspaper is correct, what happened to our much-publicized sea patrols? Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib himself boasted that “escape by sea would not succeed as the naval blockade around the coast is “very tight” (The Sun, March 14, 2013, p 02). Yet, these gunmen did manage to flee!

Another soldier was killed on Tuesday when the army truck he was driving lost control and skidded along Jalan Lahad Datu-Cenderawasih, bringing the total security forces casualties to 10. Hamza said “The soldier sustained serious injuries and died in the Lahad Datu Hospital” (Webpage, published March 12, 2013).

A different source however reported that the accident happened at Km37 of the Lahad Datu-Tungku road at about 7:30 AM. Only two people were in the truck – the passenger was killed and the driver was injured (The Sun, March 14, 2013, p 02). See what I mean? Even Malaysian newspapers cannot report a simple accident with accuracy. Or is it because Hamza keeps giving different versions? Shouldn't he be sure of his facts before he opened his mouth?

And according to Hamza (again), he believes that Agbimuddin, the leader of the self-styled “Royal Sulu Army”, is entrenched with his cohorts at Tanjung Batu. The Malaysian security forces are 'sweeping' the area and it is only a matter of time before he is captured, dead or alive. One should expect this to occur within the next twenty-four hours but since our forces were instructed to be extra, extra careful, it is best to give them forty-eight hours to nab this guy. We have realized that these Sulu gunmen can also shoot back and kill.

The Sun (March 14, 2013, p 01) has reported Foreign Minister Anifah Aman as saying that Malaysia will brook no interference now in the Sabah crisis. Why are we bloody cocky now? Is it because we now intend to go for the kill – so we are rejecting peace overtures? Under Ops Sulu, we had opened a dialogue that lasted for twenty days and under the renamed Ops Daulat, we are in the tenth day and more than ready to wipe out the enemy!

Security-wise, Malaysia is strengthening their armory in Sabah. Two helicopters and twelve tracked armored personnel carriers are expected to arrive within days to beef up Ops Daulat.

Yesterday, retired army deputy chief Lt-Gen (Rtd) Abdul Ghafir Abdul Hamid (left) has alleged there was a "total and complete failure of intelligence" in detecting the Sulu incursion into Lahad Datu because the military's intelligence apparatus has lost its teeth. He explained that this happened because the military intelligence arm has been used for political purposes since 2000.

But what is equally interesting was his remarks about the government's slip-shod management of information. Ghafir believes that it was not appropriate to label the gunmen as "armed intruders". By affixing that label, the government's hands were tied by international conventions – it can only deploy a police response since an 'intrusion'' is considered less serious.

Ghafir believes that the correct term for the Sulu gunmen should be "armed aggressors". This would have freed Malaysia to do what it needed to safeguard its sovereign territory, including the deployment of the military.

Armed Forces chief Gen Zulkifeli Mohd Zain's response: "His opinion doesn’t deserve any comment”. I hope it is not because Ghafir is right!

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