AT least 50 Filipinos residing in Sabah were detained by Malaysian authorities in connection with the alleged threat by an armed group reportedly associated with the Sulu sultanate.
In a report by the New Strait Times on Sunday, Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib said the Filipinos were rounded up as part of the ongoing investigation into the reported threat to stage retaliatory attacks on Tambunan district, a farming valley located in the Interior Division of Sabah.
Hamza said that a letter was sent to the Tambunan District Office on July 3 by the so-called Militant Commandos.
The letter warned residents, police officers, and security forces that the group’s “Secret Sulu Army” has surrounded Tambunan and is prepared to attack the district anytime in July or August.
”We are investigating the claim and tracing the source of the letter. We believe the individual responsible for it had acted on his or her own accord and had no links to the Sulumilitants,” Hamza was quoted as saying.
Militant Commandos, Hamza added, threatened to terrorize and burn down Tambunan to avenge the deaths of 68 followers of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd in the hands of Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu, Sabah in March.
Tambunan, a valley district located 80 kilometers east of Kota Kinabalu, has a population of 36,000 composed of Malay, Chinese and other Sabahan ethnic groups.
Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had given assurances that the East Sabah Security Command (Esscom) is ready to face any threat from the “Sulu terrorists.”
Sulu sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani however dismissed the report, saying they have no information about the armed group or its plan to attack Tambunan.
He said members of the Royal Security Forces (RSF) who are still in Sabah are observing the Holy Month of Ramadan as ordered by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the sultan’s brother and commander of the RSF.
“They would not do anything like that because they are still complying with the unilateral ceasefire ordered by sultan Kiram,” Idjirani said.
However, Idjirani hinted that the so-called Militant Commandos could be the 1,000 “volunteers” who sailed from Sulu to back up RSF fighters.
He said the group could have been angered by the continuous illegal arrests and harassment of Filipinos living in Sabah.
He cited the raid recently conducted by a Malaysian security unit on a house occupied by Filipinos who were then taking their morning meal.
While not condoning the Sulu militants’ threat to use violence, Idjirani said the Sulu sultanate “understands” their sentiments against the Malaysian government.
The Sulu sultanate’s RSF battled Malaysian security forces in March, a month after covertly going to Lahad Datu to revive the sultanate’s long-standing claim on Sabah.
Idjirani also said that the sultanate believes that the soon to be formed Bangsamoro Entity will drop the country’s claim on Sabah.
He said they received information that once the Bangsamoro Entity formalizes its own “federal form of government” in Mindanao, it would initiate the dropping of the Sabah claim.