FEARING that the on-going clashes in Zamboanga City might spillover into Sabah, the Malaysian armed forces have tightened security along the coastal boarders in the disputed territory.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Director General Datuk Mohammad Mentek said the heightened security alert was issued to prevent the spillover of clashes into Sabah.
“Esscom is coordinating checks with our security forces following the incident,” Mohammad was quoted by Malaysian news agency Star Online.
He added that Malaysian security forces have taken up measures to strengthen the sea borders between Malaysia and Philippines.
But the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo spokesman Abraham Idjirani downplayed Malaysia’s apprehension that Misuari and his forces will try to escape towards Sabah.
“Nur Misuari is an enemy of the Malaysian government. If ever he will withdraw [from Zamboanga City], definitely it’s not in Sabah,” Idjirani said.
Idjirani noted that Misuari had escaped to Sabah during the failed rebellion of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu and Zamboanga in 2001 but the Malaysian government quickly deported him to the Philippines.
Misuari had also openly supported the Sulu Sultanate during the Sabah crisis early this year and had even sent MNLF fighters to back up Kiram’s forces. Kiram and Misuari are both Tausugs.
Idjirani said the increased security around Sabah was confirmed on Monday night by Kiram’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who was still in Sabah commanding the 1,600-strong RSF unit that remained in the territory.
“He [Agbimuddin] called up last night to confirm that the Malaysian military in Sabah is on full alert. But he said they will not make any move and will remain in defensive posture only,” he said.
Idjirani said Agbimuddin sympathizes with Misuari’s cause but he deplored the use of violence, especially on the civilian population of Zamboanga City.
“The Sultanate and the RSF are focused in our own struggle to reclaim Sabah. We do not want outside interference,” the sultanate official added.
Sabah’s close proximity to the southern Philippines has raised fears that members of MNLF who have been laying siege in Zamboanga City might escape towards Sabah to evade capture by the Philippine military. RITCHIE A. HORARIO