Friday, February 22, 2013

Local residents speak out on Lahad Datu intrusion


 
Immediately after news of an intrusion by a group of armed men at Tanduo, a coastal area near the Felda Sahabat 17 broke out, the situation in the nearby Lahad Datu town became busy with the activities of the security forces.

According to residents in Lahad Datu, a coastal town in the east of Sabah, many military trucks were seen moving on Jalan Silabukan, heading for the stand-off location.

NONEMalaysian security forces were busy patrolling the town on foot and patrol helicopters were making the rounds over the area, coupled with police roadblocks set up in several areas of the town, especially along Jalan Silabukan.

Schools located along Jalan Silabukan, including those in Bakapit, Tungku and the Felda settlement, were closed and additional security forces were stationed at the Felda area.

While some residents around Lahad Datu town were anxious about the situation, some carried on with their daily lives, without much concern.

According to resident Prichard Jimmy, it was business as usual for many shops despite the heavy military presence and patrols,.

"The situation here is still like normal. Many shops still open while some are closed. The residents are not panicky because they know the authorities are having tight inspections on the roads.

"Many helicopters shuttle to Tungku. I am afraid to walk in the night for fear of being abducted," Prichard told Malaysiakini.

According to him, many residents avoided using Jalan Silabukan, except those living in areas along the main road.

Many from the peninsula have left town

Another resident, Nihal Singh, confirmed that many shops were closed, and many Chinese residents have left Lahad Datu town since the intrusion.

"Many Chinese from the peninsula have left the town. Some may have gone to other towns and some may have returned to the peninsula.

"Some are not sending their children to kindergartens, including me," Nihal said.

Another woman, who only wanted to be known as Siti, said she saw into seven military trucks escorted by two motorbikes as she was her way back to Semporna. However, the trucks were empty.

Anthony Teo, who feels "an underlying tension" over the area, has also come across many military vehicles heading to the Felda Sahabat area.

The situation around Felda Sahabat is very much different, for it has come under an eerie silence since the intrusion by the militants.

An employee of a financial institution in Lahad Datu, who does not want to be named, said the situation was frightening and he was reluctant to work under such a situation as his office was just 16km from the stand-off zone.

He said the official statements released by the authorities do no reflect the situation there.

Another villager staying along Jalan Silabukan expressed the same sentiment.

"Helicopters were continuously making patrols while traffic on the road has reduced. The situation is tense and frightening," he said, also requesting anonymity.

Speculation is rife among Lahad Datu residents that the intruders are veterans of Abu Sayaff, the militant Islamist separatist group based in southern Philippines.

~ Malaysiakini

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