Malaysia won't compromise with gunmen
By P.K. Katharaon, Ruben Sario and Stephanie Lee ,The Star/Asia News NetworkKOTA KINABALU, Malaysia -- Malaysia will never compromise with the Sulu armed group holed up at Kampung Tanduo in Felda Sahabat 17 for over 12 days, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.
February 20, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
“We want to ensure the operations are carried out smoothly. We do not want any problem, bloodshed or loss of lives from any party,” said Hishammuddin, before he flew to Lahad Datu today for a ground assessment of the situation.
He said although the group was armed, they were neither militants or terrorists.
“It is our duty to ensure there won't be bloodshed. I want to let the people know what is really going on. This is so that I can give a better answer and clearer picture of things happening there,” he said.
Urging Malaysians to ignore rumors surrounding the intentions of the Sulu armed group, Hishammuddin said: “What's most important is the safety aspect and that this has nothing to do with sovereignty or other speculation.”
Describing such rumors as “baseless,” he said there were “some things that should not be politicized” and warned that action would be taken should these prove to jeopardize public safety.
“We are trying to calm the people, lower the temperature and allay any public fear or concern,” said Hishammuddin, urging Malaysians to show their support and encouragement to the security forces for their work since the group first landed at the remote seaside village in Felda Sahabat 17 on February 9.
The group, numbering some 100 people and reportedly headed by Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, had demanded to meet certain “personalities” as negotiations dragged on.
They were believed to be wielding M16, M14 and Baby Armalite assault weapons and M203 grenade launchers although Sultan Jamalul claimed that they had arrived in Sabah's east coast unarmed and would be staying put because Sabah was their “homeland.”
The group, including five women, had earlier demanded recognition as the Royal Sultanate of Sulu Army, calling for the Suluk community, which had been in Sabah for a long time, not to be deported.
Since Feb. 9, they had been living off the produce of 15 farming families who fled Kampung Tanduo.
Malaysia, said Hishammuddin, was also working closely with the Philippine government to resolve the standoff, adding that he could not say, as yet, when deportation of the group would start.
“We have always been tightening the level of our defense but our sea borders and coastline are so long,” he said.