Sultan fears crackdown

Jerald Uy

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But Malacañang gives assurances that there is no fighting right now

HIGH ALERT. Sabah's east coast is now on alert following a standoff that reportedly led to 3 deaths.

MANILA, Philippines – “The crackdown is just starting,” according to the spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Malaysian security forces supposedly arrested more than 100 Filipino Muslims after a firefight on Friday morning, March 1, in the village of Lahad Datu in Sabah between Kuala Lumpur policemen and Kiram’s armed followers.

But this could not be independently confirmed. 

Asked about the situation in Sabah as of 7pm Friday, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang told Palace reporters: “There are still people who are still there, but right now, based on a latest report we have, there is no fighting right now…There are still members of the Kiram party in Sabah, that’s one. We know that. Number two, we also know that as of this moment, there is no fighting right.”

The Malaysian forces “are still there,” Carandang added.

Kiram’s spokesperson Abraham Idjirani told reporters in Manila: “What is true now is in Lahad Datu, innocent civilians of Filipino origins, despite living permanent residence and are citizens of Sabah are being rounded up and brought to the police station.”

He said they received feedback from their relatives in Sabah about the incident in nearby town of Sampulna, about 200 kilometers away from Lahad Datu.

Idjirani said the Malaysian government is violating the human rights of Filipinos there. “Especially in a time like this, Malaysia will adopt the National Security Act in order to justify arresting anybody who they suspect as sympathizers of the Sultanate of Sulu,” he said.

Allow media

Idjirani was able to talk to a relative of Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Kiram, the leader of the Filipino gunmen in Sabah, at 2:30 pm. He belied claims by Malaysia that Kiram’s followers had been captured.

Idjirani called for transparency on what really happened in Sabah. He said journalists should be allowed to go there to investigate what happened.

“Allow the Philippine media and international correspondents to visit the area so that we will know the truth, as well as the international community who are neutral on this issue,” he said. 

Idjarani also belied statements by the Malaysian government that the standoff is over. He said “a friend of a Kuala Lumpur official” warned them about plans of the Malaysian government to “augment their forces” by night fall on Friday.

Kiram and his followers will also re-group, he said. “Siyempre, they are planning to regroup. They’re preparing for the worst,” Idjarani said. –

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