Pinoys in Sabah: Afraid, segregated

Edwin G. Espejo

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Malaysian security agents have been telling Filipinos in Sabah that Kiram's followers are linked to the Abu Sayyaf

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Filipinos living in Sabah said they are segregated according to tribes and that their movements have been limited and closely monitored by Malaysian authorities.

Classes were also suspended in the largely Filipino community of Lahad Datu in Sabah, as the standoff between Malaysian police and security forces and the heirs and descendants of the Sultan of Sulu continued, with fresh Malaysian attacks launched Tuesday, March 5.

A Filipina who was interviewed by Bombo Radyo Gensan Tuesday morning said they were also told by Malaysian security forces that the “intruding” armed Filipino followers of Jamalul Kiram II are members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Abu Sayyaf Group.

According to her, Malaysian police and security forces have separated the Tausugs from the rest of the Filipino ethnic groups but added that they have not been harmed or threatened. She said she did not know the reason why they are segregated according to ethnicity.

The Tausugs are the dominant ethnic group of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi but some Maguindaoans, Yakans and Samals have also established residences in many parts of Sabah.

At least 400,000 Filipinos in Sabah are reportedly undocumented. They were part of the exodus from Mindanao during the height of the Moro insurgency in the 1970s. Most of them are either into trading or working as farm workers in palm oil plantations.

Read: The forgotten problem of Sabah’s halaw

The woman interviewed by Bomb Radyo Gensan herself said she does not have a Philippine passport. She was nevertheless hoping the standoff will be resolved peacefully soon.

But the sultan’s followers show no sign of giving up. (Read: God will help us)

Business affected

The New York Times reported today that palm oil firms are now facing delivery delays due to the continuing violence in the area.

At least 27 have already died in the exchange of gunfire between the Malaysian police and the heavily armed followers of the Kirams.

Some 280 followers of the Kirams, many of them armed with assault rifles, arrived in the fishing village of Lahad Datu three weeks ago on board two ferry vessels and a speed boat in what they claimed was a journey back to their homeland.

Sabah was once part of the vast territory of the Sultan of Sulu. It was given as a present by the Sultan of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu for the latter’s help in quelling a rebellion in the island.

The Sultan of Sulu leased Sabah to a Dutch trader in 1876 who later sold his rights to a British Trading Company.

The Malaysian government still pays the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu token rent in recognition of the lease agreement although it annexed the territory when it was granted independence by the British colonial government after World War II. –

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