DIGOS CITY—Ten persons, who were either Filipino or had Filipino descent, were arrested over suspicions of collaboration with the “Sulu terrorists,” abetting them or even participation in actual attacks against Malaysian security forces, Malaysian authorities said Friday.
Hamza Taib, Sabah police commissioner, said in an interview by a Sabah-based radio station that two of the suspects—both in their 40s—were arrested by police authorities in Bukit Aman in Semporna around 8 p.m. Thursday, while the eight others were collared as they tried to enter the operation area in Lahad Datu on a speedboat past midnight, also on the same day.
Quoting a report by Semporna police chief Mohamad Firdaus Francis Abdullah, Hamza said the two suspects with Filipino ancestry were taken in for questioning during a sweep of Bukit Aman, following information they were “collaborators or might have even been involved in the March 2 ambush in Kampung Simunul.”
Hamza said later that evening, policemen in Lahad Datu arrested eight more men—all Filipino—who had no identification or immigration documents, as they tried to dock in Kampung Sungai Bilis.
He said a check on the speedboat uncovered a stash of peso bills, “totaling P369,000 and 300 jerrycans (water containers).”
“No weapons were found but we wondered what they were doing there with huge amount of money and lots of jerrycans,” Hamza said.
He said the men, some as young as 17, were now being investigated under Malaysia’s Security Offenses and Special Measures Act (Sosma) and immigration laws.
Hamza said the sweep against suspected supporters of the Sulu “terrorists” was continuing.
In another interview over the same radio station, Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Malaysia has nothing to explain to Manila as it strives to deal with the “intrusion.”
“Why do we need to discuss anything with (the Philippine government)?” he asked.
Muhyiddin said the Philippine government was not a party to the Sabah crisis, brought up by the armed intrusion of “Sulu terrorists,” in the first place.
The state-run Radio 24 said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has defended Putrajaya’s decision to take head on the “invaders of Sabah.”
Najib was quoted as saying nobody should question Malaysia’s handling of the Sabah incident because it did not violate international or religious laws.
“Malaysia was on the side of the truth in defending the country’s sovereignty from the terrorists. The Government is most careful in the matter and about what we are doing,” Najib was quoted as telling supporters during a lunch he hosted after attending Friday prayers in Tanah Merah in Kelantan on Friday.
He was also reported to have said that under any Islamic law, Malaysia was not liable because it repeatedly gave the “terrorists” opportunity to get out of Sabah without harm. Nothing in the international law could also prevent Malaysia from defending its territory.
“We did not want bloodshed, we did not want lives lost but we were attacked and we had to defend ourselves,” he was quoted as further telling supporters.
He also described the slain members of Malaysia’s security forces as “martyrs.”
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government has intensified its campaign against the opposition in Malaysia, either for linking the dominant United Malays National Organization (Umno) party to the “intrusion” or for “belittling” the government’s efforts against the “royal army.”
On Friday, policemen raided the office of Suara Keadilan – the propaganda machine of Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) – in Johor Baru in Johor state.
In a statement posted on its website, Suara Keadilan – which also maintains a radio station – said the policemen told its staff that they will be confiscating computers “used to upload” a “seditious” statement issued by PKR vice president Tian Chua that Umno was “behind the Lahad Datu intrusion.”
Suara Keadilan said its staff had prevented the police from taking any computer after they told them to contact lawyer Latheefa Koya before they did so.
The opposition’s information machine said the policemen then sought its reporter, who had interviewed Tian over the alleged Umno links to the Sabah crisis.
On Thursday, Tian was also formally charged over his “seditious statement” at the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur.
Tian denied he had accused Umno of plotting the Sabah invasion to allegedly divert the attention of and intimidate Sabahans to support the Najib’s Barisan Nasional during the July general elections.
He was also being accused of insinuating that Umno politicians had conspired to stage the Sabah “drama” to steer away the people’s attention from the controversial issuance of identity cards to foreigners on the said state.
Many foreigners – including Filipinos – had acquired Mykad, or the IDs issued to Malaysian citizens and permanent residents, due to the support of Malaysian politicians, including then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.
In a statement published by Suara Keadilan, Tian described the charge as “politically motivated” and added he was ready to face “this slander to clear my name.”
If found guilty, the opposition leader might spend up to three years in jail aside from a maximum fine of RM5,000 (about P65,000).
But even before he was found guilty, Tian already had to post bail amounting to RM5,000 before he was released from police custody amid his lawyer’s appeal to Judge Mohamad Sekeri Mamat to free the opposition leader on a custodial guarantee.
LAHAD DATU- Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram and his men have fled back to the Philippines, Malaysia’s military chief said late Friday.
“Azzimudie has abandoned his men and fled to his homeland,” Gen. Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said in a joint media conference with Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar in Kota Kinabalu, according to a report posted on The Star Malaysia.
Zulkifeli said the information was based on the feedback from security forces commanders on the ground. The reports indicated that Agbimuddin was no longer with his men.
But the spokesperson of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Friday denied the claim of Malaysia’s top security forces that Agbimuddin has fled back to southern Philippines.
“That’s only propaganda by Malaysia. They’re saying that so as not to disturb their elections. I don’t have to explain that,” Abraham Idjirani said in a phone interview.
Idjirani said he last spoke to Agbimuddin at 2 p.m. Friday and that the leader of the Royal Army remains in Sabah.