A former Lahad Datu police chief says that years of government indifference towards the dire state of security forces in the district paved the way for an armed incursion into Sabah.
PETALING JAYA: Insufficient police personnel, lack of equipment, police vehicles in bad shape — those were the security issues plaguing Lahad Datu for years, said a former Lahad Datu police chief.
Yet, the federal government continued to ignore Lahad Datu police’s requests to upgrade security, said Kamis Daming, and this was why the Royal Sulu Army was able to breach Sabah with ease on Feb 9.
“When I was in Lahad Datu five years ago, I often expressed concerns to our superiors about the possibility of intrusion by foreign elements, but our proposals and requests for security beef-up were looked at very lightly,” Kamis was quoted as saying by the Daily Express.
He told reporters in Kota Kinabalu yesterday that the Lahad Datu district police had scarce equipment and police vehicles such as their four-wheel drives and patrol boats were in terrible shape and constantly broke down.
Meanwhile, the force faced fuel shortages because their supplier allegedly refused to supply them fuel due to unsettled debts, he added.
And despite the district being short of police personnel, he said there were not enough living quarters in the police compound for the force to reside in.
“Another sad thing is that some of the police officers and personnel have to rent a house outside the police compound because there are not enough quarters,” he was quoted as saying.
But even houses for rent were scarce, forcing low-rank personnel to stay in dilapidated police barracks riddled with holes, he said.
“And when we filed an application for funds to repair the barracks, headquarters would reply that no allocations were available yet.
“Living under such an environment is so demoralising for the low-rank personnel, so what can be expected from them?” he asked.
Kamis also reportedly supported Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President Yong Teck Lee’s claim that Sabahans had alerted authorities for decades on the threat illegal immigrants in Sabah posed, yet the government remained indifferent about it.
On Feb 9, some 200 armed men from the Royal Sulu Army entered Sabah to take the state by force as they believed they had an ancestral claim on the land.
Weeks of peaceful negotiations with Malaysian authorities culminated in a shootout in Lahad Datu on March 1 that saw two local policemen and 12 or the armed intruders killed.
The following day, six more Malaysians were killed in an ambush by the Sulu army on Saturday in Semporna. On Tuesday, another local soldier died in a gun battle, while another died in a vehicle accident.