Pada hari Selasa bersamaan 12 Februari 2013, sekumpulan 100 orang bersenjata yang diketuai oleh Haji Musa, orang kanan Mohammad Ismail A Kiram, anak keempat kepada Muhammad Fuad A Kiram, seorang yang mengangkat dirinya sendiri sebagai Sultan Sulu, telah mendarat di Kampung Tanduo, Tanjung Labian, di daerah Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Menurut laporan asal, mereka berkumpul di sebuah rumah milik Ahmad Malandi, yang juga dikenali sebagai ‘Mat Bom‘ bukan hanya kerana beliau sering menggunakan bom buatan sendiri untuk menangkap ikan, tetapi juga kerana pernah menyerang sebuah pejabat FELDA di FELDA Sahabat dalam tahun 1990an dengan menggunakan bom ikan gara-gara tidak berpuas hati dengan pertikaian tanah pusaka dengan FELDA.
Saya pernah menulis bagaimana kumpulan pertama yang terdiri dari lima orang yang memakai jubah diiringi 27 orang memakai separa-celoreng telah medarat terlebih dahulu, diikuti sekitar 70 orang kemudiannya. Kesemua mereka bersenjatakan M-14 dan AR-15.
Pasukan keselamatan telah mula bertindak dengan Polis DiRaja Malaysia menggerakkan dua kompeni dari Pasukan Gerakan Am, dan disokong oleh pegawai dan anggota Tentera Darat Malaysia dari 5 Briged Infantri. Rundingan dijalankan pihak PDRM untuk memujuk mereka meletakkan senjata dan menyerah diri kepada pihak polis. Malangnya, pada 1 Mac 2013 para pengganas Sulu ini bertindak bertempur dengan pasukan Komando 69 PDRM di Kampung Tanduo, diikuti dengan serang hendap terhadap pegawai dan anggota Cawangan Khas PDRM di Kampung Simunul di Semporna keesokan harinya. Pada 5 Mac 2013, peringkat ofensif oleh Angkatan Tentera Malaysia dan PDRM telah dilancarkan untuk menghapuskan para pengganas tersebut.
Sungguh malang nasib balu dan ibubapa 10 orang para pegawai dan anggota PDRM dan ATM yang terkorban di Lahad Datu mempertahankan kedaulatan negara. Pengorbanan anak mereka, suami mereka, bapa kepada anak-anak mereka, diperlekehkan oleh mereka yang tidak berhati perut, hanya kerana kepentingan politik sempit mereka.
Baru-baru ini dilangsungkan perbarisan penganugerahan “Battle Honour Daulat Februari 2013” di Kota Kinabalu. Selain untuk menganugerahkan unit-unit ATM yang terlibat dalam Op Daulat dengan “Battle Honour,” ianya juga adalah untuk memberitahu kepada rakyat Malaysia, terutamanya di Sabah, bahawa kerajaan tidak memandang ringan tugas mempertahankan kedaulatan negara, dan juga memperingatkan semua bahaya pencerobohan yang dilakukan sama ada untuk peperangan konvensional mahupun peperangan asimetri.
Lewat ini kita sering dapati sesetengah pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab menyerang integriti serta moral pasukan keselamatan dengan menghina dan merendah-rendahkan kebolehan serta aset yang dimiliki pasukan keselamatan. Mungkin mereka merasakan bahawa di dalam mana-mana peperangan, mereka tidak akan merasa sebarang kesusahan.
Kita ketahui terdapat anggota ATM dan PDRM yang tercedera dalam pertempuran semasa Op Daulat dilangsungkan tetapi tidak ramai yang mengetahui mahupun dapat menilai pengorbanan yang dilakukan oleh pasukan keselamatan kita untuk mempertahankan kedaulatan. Ini bukannya cerita ‘Combat‘ mahupun ‘Rambo‘ di mana heronya akan mendapat luka-luka kecil tatkala bertempur, tetapi ada yang tidak sempurna anggota dan fungsi tubuh badan setelah terkena tembakan.
Berikut adalah di antara paparan yang mungkin tidak pernah dilihat oleh rakyat Malaysia sebelum ini, tetapi saya rasakan amat perlu ditunjuk supaya kita faham erti pengorbanan pasukan keselamatan kita.
Sekiranya anda merasakan hanya para anggota keselamatan kita yang merasa pahit maung pertempuran, anda tersilap. Realitinya amat berbeza sekali.
Apabila hospital medan didirikan oleh Kor Kesihatan DiRaja di kawasan operasi, orang awam yang terdiri dari para penduduk di situ yang telah tercedera ditembak secara rambang oleh pengganas Sulu berduyun-duyun datang untuk mendapatkan rawatan kecemasan. Di antara mereka termasuk kanak-kanak dan bayi yang menjadi mangsa keganasan pengganas Sulu. Mereka langsung tidak berperi kemanusiaan terhadap para penduduk timur Sabah sedangkan mereka kata Sabah adalah hak mereka.
Rentetan daripada insiden di Lahad Datu inilah kerajaan mewujudkan ESSCOM untuk memantapkan kawalan keselamatan di timur Sabah. Menteri Pertahanan Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein berkata inisiatif terbaharu kerajaan ialah dengan menempatkan 7,000 anggota Tentera Darat dengan perlaksanaan Op Daratan, Op Balasah, Op Khas dan Op Pasir bagi mempertahankan daratan Sabah. Satu kompeni infantri Tentera Darat juga telah ditempatkan di kawasan Cenderawasih, Lahad Datu untuk memastikan kawasan pantai Lahad Datu terkawal sepenuhnya.
Tambah beliau lagi, inisiatif Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) telah dilancarkan oleh Malaysia bagi memastikan mana-mana anggota militan termasuk Da’esh tidak menjadikan Laut Sulu sebagai laluan tikus untuk menceroboh masuk ke negara ini manakala inisiatif Trilateral Air Patrol (TAP) akan dilaksanakan dalam masa terdekat.
Jangan kita lupa siapa musuh kita. Jangan kita bersekongkol dengan mereka yang bersahabat dengan musuh yang tidak senang dengan kemerdekaan dan kesenangan yang kita kecapi. Jangan kita termakan hasutan politik kebencian (politics of hate) yang diamalkan oleh sesetengah pihak yang sanggup berbaik-baik dengan musuh untuk mendapat pengiktirafan mereka.
Jangan kita lupa pengorbanan pasukan keselamatan kita. Jangan jadikan pemergian mereka, dan juga pemergian para penduduk yang menjadi mangsa kekejaman pengganas Sulu sebagai pemergian yang sia-sia. Berikanlah sokongan tidak berbelah bahagi kepada pasukan keselamatan kita, terutamanya Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, kerana musuh tidak membeza-bezakan di antara tentera dan rakyat Malaysia.
Almost three years ago the nation witnessed the slaughter of several police officers and men by a bunch of low-life thugs from the Southern Philippines, men of the self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III landed in Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu and demanded for the return of Sabah to the Sultanate.
The women above lost their husband and their children have lost forever a normal life.
Treachery must run deep in Anwar’s family. On the 9th November 2015, his daughter and MP for Lembah Pantai, Nurul Izzah, went to lend her support to Jacel Kiram, daughter if the now rotting Jamalul Kiram III. Talk about insensitivity! Jacel Kiram still claims that Sabah belongs to Sulu.
To add insult to injury, DAP’s Teresa Kok had this to say to reporters about Nurul Izzah’s visit:
The visit is not serious, she said, and the events that took place at Kampung Tanduo is a bit of an old story.
I hope she could tell China to now stop asking for an apology from the Japanese, and that the Jews should forget the Holocaust ever happened.
Whoever votes for these MOs again ought to be castrated and raw iodine poured on their wound.
Just before midnight on Sunday, 4th May 2014, four heavily armed men dressed in army fatigues robbed four fishermen of their boat engines off Tanjung Labian, the scene of last year’s bloody incursion by armed Filipino men. Around 2.45am on Tuesday, 6th May 2014, just 51 hours after Sunday’s incident, five armed men also dressed in army fatigues kidnapped Chinese national, Yang Zai Lin from his fish farm on Pulau Baik south west of Lahad Datu. The Marine Police sent two fast patrol craft, a PA-class and a PSC-class, to intercept the boat the armed men used. There was an exchange of gunfire between them near Pulau Mataking but the armed men evaded capture in international waters after reaching the Sibutu islands, some 10 nautical miles from Mataking, quoting the Sabah Police Commissioner, Datuk Hamza Taib in The Star newspaper.
I cannot but agree with Kalabakan MP, Datuk Ghapur Salleh who was quoted to have said the following:
““Esscom is a toothless tiger. They have no command of the police or the army. It is better to get someone who has power.”
For those who have never been to that part of the world, let me first orientate you on the landscape.
As you can see in the map above, Pulau Baik (where the incident took place) is at the bottom left of the map, definitely more than 30 nautical miles away from Lahad Datu.
The distance between Pulau Baik and the fringe of the Sibutu islands is approximately 50 nautical miles. In calm seas and in a really fast boat, it should take an hour from Pulau Baik to the Philippines.
The distance between Mataking and the Sibutu islands is around 8 nautical miles.
Looking at the landscape, it would be erroneous to treat the whole area like any other borders that Malaysia has with its neighbours. And appointing a civilian to head trans-border armed incursions is downright negligence.
The marine police dispatched two patrol craft to intercept the armed intruders but stopped once the armed men were in their territorial waters for reasons only known to them. This morning’s incident is the third cross-border kidnapping incident in the areas controlled by ESSCOM.
The two fast patrol craft sent to intercept the armed men are very fast ones indeed (see photos below). Why they stopped once the armed men crossed into Filipino-waters puzzles me. I do not know how well read the people running ESSCOM are, but maybe they only read certain parts of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) such as Paragraph 3 of Article 111 of the Convention that states the following:
“The right of hot pursuit ceases as soon as the ship pursued enters the territorial sea of its own State or of a third State.
Perhaps, Paragraph 2 of the same Article should have been read too! It says:
“The right of hot pursuit shall apply mutatis mutandis to violations in the exclusive economic zone or on the continental shelf, including safety zones around continental shelf installations, of the laws and regulations of the coastal State applicable in accordance with this Convention to the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf, including such safety zones.“
In this case, in fulfilling with Article 98 of UNCLOS, a breach by our patrol craft into the waters of the Philippines would have been a technical breach, with mutatis mutandis applied, based on an agreement between the Philippines (then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Carlos P Romulo) with Indonesia and Malaysia in July 1977 allowing cross-border hot pursuits and a system for families to cross the borders, while Article 100 of UNCLOS empowers the Philippines to allow that arrangement to be in place.
With regards to this, the former Chief of Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Ramlan Mohamed Ali RMN, proposed in 2000 (after the first kidnappings in Sipadan) specific designated sea routes for vessels to enter Sabah, and enhancing monitoring capabilities by installing surface search radars (Project 1206) on islands off Sabah. This was proposed in a meeting with the then-Chief Minister of Sabah, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat. This proposal would have enhanced security in Sabah, especially in areas now under the jurisdiction of the ESSCOM. However, when Chong Kah Kiat was replaced in 2003, the proposal was mostly forgotten.
Kidnapping for ransom in an area that had seen the death of several Malaysian servicemen defending the nation and later sworn to be defended from further incursions by armed Filipino men is unacceptable. Three kidnappings involving four hostages in a span of six months is disgusting. I am not sorry for standing by my opinion that the ESSCOM should not be headed by a civilian. ESSCOM, in my opinion, is not RASCOM. Although the RASCOM (Rajang Security Command) was set up by the National Security Council in 1972 to combat communist insurgency by the Kalimantan Utara People’s Party (PARAKU) chiefly in Sibu, Sarikei, Kapit and Mukah areas. There was not much cross-border incidents as the terrorists were mainly domestic, unlike in Eastern Sabah. In the ESSCOM area, the security forces struggle to deny people from the Philippines from landing in Sabah for both economic and malicious reasons. No matter how developed the ESSCOM areas may be, you will still get Filipinos who would do anything in Sabah for personal gains. The gold that can be found in Sabah is worth risking their life for, and there are tens of thousands just 50 nautical miles away who are willing to take that risk once in a while, group by group.
If you look again at the maps above, both kidnappings took place on islands very close to the mainland. This did not happen on the peripheral islands such as Mataking, Mantabuan, Boheydulang or even Timba-Timba. It is a well-known fact that our waters in Eastern Sabah are very porous in nature. I however suspect that the kidnappings were executed by people on the way back to Sibuti from either the Lahad Datu or Semporna areas.
Last month, I was in Eastern Sabah and managed to speak to a few personnel involved in guarding the islands in that area. What I noticed different this time is that even the Army no longer has its Rover RHIB interceptors stationed on the islands of Siamil and Sipadan. In the course of a week I was in that area, five fish-bombing incidents took place in Siamil alone and there was nothing the Army could do about it as they did not have a boat to pursue the perpetrators. Red tapes caused by the formation of ESSCOM has slowed down procurement processes. I was also told by senior operations people on the mainland that they are even frustrated by the Director-General of ESSCOM for rejecting the military’s need to conduct clandestine operations in Lahad Datu and Semporna to flush out suspected sleepers (as I would term them). This clearly shows the lack of understanding by the DG of ESSCOM of military operations, and certainly of creating ESSCOM without giving due respect for defining its raison d’être with clarity and utmost conviction. You cannot run an agency that fights trans-border armed intruders like a government department. You are bound to fail miserably.
As mentioned in a blog post of mine that I wrote last year, Defence-in-Depth is the method that should and must be employed in Eastern Sabah. The first layer would have to be that of Force Projection – a term used to describe a nation’s ability to project power and exert influence in the ESSCOM area. This has to be achievable and has to be sustainable in nature. Firstly, all cross-border family members need to have their boats registered and each boat is assigned with a registration number that is stored into a database that can be easily accessed by patrol crafts, surface and aerial combat units. These registration numbers must be displayed on the bow of their pump boat. They can only enter via the designated routes that Admiral Ramlan proposed back in 2002. We have many shallow reefs in that area and manned stations or posts can be built where each boat wanting to enter will have to report to first layer posts to register their intention. Once their destination is made known, they will be issued with a colour-coded pass that they need to surrender at the second-layer post which would be at their destination. The process is reversed when they want to return to the Philippines. These first layer posts should be manned by the equivalent of an infantry section with RHIB interceptors at hand to intercept violators. Each of these posts would also house surface search radars that transmits radar data to a sectoral command center. Radar picket vessels should be on station to cover the approaches to and from Eastern Sabah and should cover all 1400 kilometers stretch. This is where the two of the Principles of War come into play: the Concentration of Force, and Economy of Effort. Obviously, based on my observations at Siamil and Sipadan, the Angkatan Tugas Bersama 2 (ATB2) is ill-equipped to carry out such tasks.
Basing of assets also need to be considered. While it is good to have major surface units such as the navy’s NGPV to be on station, these vessels are limited in endurance unless supply vessels are also available to re-supply and re-fuel. These vessels need to be on-station for weeks before they can be replaced by another surface unit. Major islands along the approaches from the outer limits all the way in should also have combat helicopters stationed on them. Combat helicopters carrying two PASKAL snipers each can be airborne in under ten minutes to intercept armed intruders. Certainly in the incident early this morning, the availability of such asset would have helped prevent the kidnappers from seeking refuge in their own territory. Auxiliary ships, perhaps smaller versions of the Bunga Mas 5 and Bunga Mas 6 operated by the Navy with the assistance from MISC need to be employed in these areas to support operations.
Good intelligence is important. There is nothing as valuable as good intelligence. More often than not, even during the February 2013 incursion that led to the Ops Daulat, intelligence played an important role. The coordination of good intelligence is equally important but I was told that such a thing does not exist under ESSCOM. Valuable intelligence remain valuable only if they are acted upon in the quickest possible time, thus commanders need to have a good grasp of strategic and tactical knowledge that their Decision-Action tempo has to overcome that of the enemy they are fighting. However as it is, the soldiers on Siamil and Sipadan can only watch if intruders sail past them at a safe distance.
On land, villages that may be used as hiding places for sleepers and intruders should be relocated at new villages and that would make effective the Chief Minister’s plan to introduce curfew in high risk areas. Cutting off the locals from the intruders would also help in identifying them and distinguishing them from locals. This is the area Mentek should be concentrating on as an Immigration officer and as an act for the Sabah people – weed out the illegals.
Of course, diplomacy has to be one of the layers of defence-in-depth. In pursuant of Article 100 of UNCLOS, the Philippines must render all assistance in the repression of piracy as well as in upholding the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea (SUA) that came into force in 2005.
Ops Daulat was not the first time that we have had armed incursions. on the 25th September 1985, 21 armed intruders dressed in Army fatigues attacked Lahad Datu town at 12 noon. The Royal Malaysian Police’s patrol boats PX29 and PX16, later supported by PZ14 cornered the intruders at Mataking and decimated them. While in pursuit, the marine policemen received an order from the then-Sabah Commissioner of Police to “not allow the pirates to live.” Such was the statement of the aim, clearly defined, and that order determined the outcome of the battle.
Eastern Sabah is not just any security zone. It is a zone that faces members of battle-hardened paramilitary groups that have been fighting the Government of the Philippines since the late 1960s. Therefore, protecting this zone means having to conduct military-like operations that should be handled by professional combatants and not by civilians. If the statement of aim of the strategy is to deny incursions, then it would have to be conducted with resolve and not through half-baked approaches or emulating other security zones whose methods are peculiar only to those areas, but not in areas managed by ESSCOM.
When the government announced the formation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), I said to myself, “About bloody time!”. I imagined security sectors formed from Kudat to Sandakan to Lahad Datu to Semporna and Tawau, mirroring what we used to have along the Malaysian-Thai border during the Communist insurgency such as Kota Alfa, Kota Bravo, Kota Charlie and Kota Delta spanning Kuala Perlis to Tumpat. The initial aim was to combat the communist guerrillas and stopping their infiltration from Southern Thailand. After the treaty in December 1989, we had elements of the Unit Pencegahan Penyeludupan (UPP) or the Anti-Smuggling Unit operating in these areas in a supporting role, to curb the smuggling of contrabands and also human trafficking.
Instead, I find it rather amusing when the Ketua Setiausaha Negara announced that Datuk Mohammad Mentek has been appointed as the Director of ESSCOM effective April 1st. What is wrong with this appointment? Mohammad Mentek is the Director of Immigration for the state of Sabah, the agency that, in my opinion, has failed badly in curbing the in-flow of illegal Filipino and Indonesian immigrants into that state.
This April 1st appointment has to be an April’s Fool joke with an extremely bad taste. Surely the KSN should know the functions of the Immigration Department like the back of his hand. If I may provide a memory-jogger for all, the. immigration Department’s functions are:
1. Issuing of passports and travel documents to Malaysian Citizens and Permanent Residents.
2. Issuing of visas, passes and permits to Foreign Nationals entering Malaysia.
3. Administering and managing the movement of people at authorised entry and exit points.
4. Enforcing the Immigration Act 1959/63, Immigration Regulations 1963 and Passport Act 1966.
If you think I made the above up, read it here. How much of an expert do you think the Sabah Director of Immigration would be in the field of counter-insurgency warfare, joint-command operations and public order? Other than the pen being mightier than the sword, I doubt if the person’s handled anything more than the butter knife, let alone deploy battalions of soldiers and policemen in combat situations.
This is another example of the government missing out on a good opportunity to make things better. Obviously, the main concern when we talk about Sabah right now is its defence from foreign elements. With the heavy presence of our security forces there, we can only see illegal immigrants returning to their homeland, and not the other way round. Therefore, the government should have had a clear aim (again, quoting from the Principles of WAR) in ensuring its strategies in making Sabah more secure conform to this aim. A concept called Defence-in-Depth should have been adopted instead where the Army and Police’s General Operations Force occupy the peripheral islands off Sabah, as being done in Ops PASIR, supported by the Navy, Marine Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. These are the front-liners that will be meeting armed militants head-on. Onshore, defence and security should be effected by the Army and Police. The Immigration Department will just stick to its supporting role, weeding out illegal immigrants.
Therefore, in my opinion, the ESSCOM should be jointly-directed by the Deputy Commander of the Army’s 1st Division, one of the deputies of the Commissioner of Police, Sabah, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s Head of Regional Enforcement for Sabah and Labuan. The reason is because they are in-charge of the combat and combat-capable units operating in this region, not the Immigration.
In conclusion, the choice of the Director of Immigration for Sabah as the Director for ESSCOM is a grave mistake. I respect the person for who he is, but if the government wants to be seen serious in protecting the Malaysians in the state of Sabah, leave the job to the professionals. Not someone who holds a Master of Science (Statistics) degree and a Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) degree from the University of Minnesota, United States.
Mention the name Beting Serupai you might get frowned upon by many. Mention the name James Shoal, and it may raise a few eyebrows. To most Malaysian, they would not be able to pinpoint where James Shoal is, save for some avid fishing enthusiasts, but this 22-meter deep shoal 80 kilometres off Bintulu, Sarawak, has been “visited” by elements of the People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) or simply referred to as the Chinese Navy, yesterday.
In its report on the 26th March 2013, the Associated Press wrote:
The official People’s Daily online said Wednesday that one destroyer, two frigates and an amphibious landing ship took part in the drills around Chinese-controlled outcroppings. They involved hovercraft, ship-born helicopters, amphibious tanks, and land-based fighters and bombers, and were followed by a ceremonial visit Tuesday to James Shoal farther south.
The Beting Serupai has always been part of China’s claim, lumped together in the Spratlys, as its southernmost territory. Prior to this “visit” the PLA-N visited the shoal in 1993 and 1994. In April of 2010, its vessel, the Marine Surveillance Ship-83 placed a sovereignty stele into the water area of the shoal.
When Malaysia enhanced its relationship with China in May 2011, it was looked at as a step further towards harnessing a greater economic relationship. The Malaysian Opposition was quick to excoriate the act as political pandering. But in retrospect, it was strategically a good move as it relives the act by the Sultanate of Melaka with the Chinese. China is not a country one could just ignore. As in the 15th century, an alliance with China not only provides economic benefits, but also from a military standpoint.
It is no secret that after China’s warnings to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in 2012, the United States was actively looking for bases in this region. Among the countries where bases are sought include the Philippines and Vietnam. However, no other modern naval base offers the best proximity than Malaysia’s own Teluk Sepanggar just north of Kota Kinabalu. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the carrier battle group of the USS John C Stennis decided to make a port call there in early October 2012. Before that, in the month of April 2012, the RMN base was visited by the US Navy Secretary, who brought with him the submarine-tender, the USS Emory S Land, and the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine, the USS Louisville.
The only factor that is stopping the US Navy from getting naval base facilities in Sabah is probably not having a Malaysian government that would kowtow to them. Therefore, the outcome of the next general elections would be important to them. Little wonder that Sabah has been the aim of a certain party. However, this writer hopes that this dangerous effort would not come to fruition.
That the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines has asked Filipinos to stop referring to Sabah as Sabah, Malaysia three days ago, citing Memorandum Circular No. 162 issued by Malacanang back in 2008. The DFA has also begun referring to Filipinos fleeing Sabah as “displaced persons” instead of “evacuees” or “returnees.” This is the Philippines government doing a 180 on its previous position re the Sabah claim. The fact that the US Navy and Marines have begun deploying its assets in the Philippines comes as no surprise. On Tuesday the USN and US Marine Corps offloaded more than 270 tactical and amphibious assault vehicles in Subic Bay, Zambales.
American troops from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, offloaded a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle from the container and roll-on, roll-off ship USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus on March 21. Some 8,000 troops from both the US and the Philippines will commence its Balikatan exercise on 5th April. And the US has yet to offer an explanation on why its minesweeper, the USS Guardian, could run aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea near Palawan, two weeks before the incursion by the Sulu militants. And suddenly, Jamalul Kiram III who hardly has enough money to cover the bills for his twice-weekly kidney dialysis, could find the financial resources to send hundreds of armed militants across the Sulu Sea to Lahad Datu.
Perhaps, the Chinese naval exercise in the South China Sea and its “visit” to the southernmost part it claims comes as a warning to any party that plans to upset the military balance in the region. China, I would expect, would want to protect its interests; and the 180 by the Philippines in the Sabah issue could be seen as an attempt to de-stabilise the region. Having Sabah not only allows a nation to dip its fingers into Sabah’s oilfields but also increases its EEZ reach into the Spratlys.
Whatever the intentions may be by all the related parties, the Malaysian government should seriously look into increasing its naval and aerial assets. A country that is weak militarily will only see its soil trampled by foreign forces. The government should also make sure Sabah is not lost to another nation, and act against the Quislings who have caused the emergency in Lahad Datu.
The Prime Minister recently said that lessons of the Sulu intrusion must be identified. That is only half the battle won. It should also be learnt.
When the Sulu militants began landing at Kampung Tanduo in the Lahad Datu district of Sabah, both the military intelligence and police’s Special Branch knew exactly their numbers, type of weapons, how many more they were expecting, whose house they rendezvoused at and their intention of coming to Sabah. Within hours, elements of the General Operations Force plus the army’s 5th Brigade were deployed to effect a cordon around the area, with combat elements from the Navy, Marine Police and the Maritime Enforcement Agency taking stations offshore. More military conventional and non-conventional forces plus naval assets were already enroute in the ensuing initial hours. Within the first 24-hours, I am in the opinion that we had an overwhelming force to combat the militants. As a former serving officer of His Majesty’s Armed Forces of managerial level, I would have quickly acted in accordance to the Principles of War and the Principles of Crisis Management.
The first Principle of War is the Selection of Aim and its Maintenance. This is the Master Principle that must be established at the commencement of hostilities and followed through and through, and everything else should fall in place. However, we see the pussy-footing of this issue in Putrajaya, in particular the Ministry of Home Affairs, in making decisions. What we saw instead was the downplaying of the seriousness of the matter by the Minister himself. How can we forget his “old men with rusty rifles” response to his appreciation of the enemy’s physical condition, forgetting the fact that these men had been involved in insurgency warfare against their own government, beheading priests and nuns and fellow Muslims, burning churches etc for the past half a century.
This was the same reaction from Admiral Sir Tom Phillips while sailing on board one of the Royal Navy’s most-modern battleships, the HMS Prince of Wales, off the east coast of Malaya. “The Japs can’t see us very well because they have slant eyes,” was his remark when Japanese bombers approached his ships.
In short, never underestimate your enemy, and never take your eyes off them. Margaret Thatcher followed this principle upon being informed of the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland islands. Within the first 48 hours, she mustered the largest modern British armada to repel the invasion.
This is because the seventh Principle of Management is You Have 48-Hours. The first 48-hours is the crunch time. If you are not ahead of the crisis within this time, you will be run over by the crisis. What we saw was more negotiations being done by the police as instructed by their superiors. We see that the enemy have already established their aim in accordance with the first Principle of War, yet we were not acting in response to that aim. While the Minister of Home Affairs was seen making ad hoc comments in between plating trees on the issue, still downplaying the crisis, the Minister of Defence was not yet roped into the whole thing to assist in resolving the crisis. This is against the Ninth Principle of War which is Cooperation – to incorporate teamwork, sharing burden of dangers, risks, and opportunities. This gave time for the enemy to maintain their aim of coming to Sabah, and they dug in, with no intention of leaving.
There was no communication between the authorities and members of the public, a clear failure in crisis communication. Rules five of the Principles of Crisis Management clearly states that there are three key messages to be delivered within the first 48 hours of the crisis, and they are:
We have a plan to deal with….and this has to go hand-in-hand with the first Principle of War,
We regret to inconvenience…show compassion to the people affected by the crisis so that hey will understand their need to be inconvenienced, and,
We have begun investigations into this matter to ensure this does not occur in the future…you need to re-assure the public that you are on top of this.
You need to back this up with action, but after the first skirmish that saw the demise of the first two policemen from the VAT69, there was no follow up. This was not in accordance with the third principle of war which is Offensive Action. This is the practical way to seek to gain advantage, to sustain the momentum and seize the advantage. This never happened. We lost the fifth principle of war: Surprise.
Instead, there was absolute silence, and misleading statements issued such as the attack on the police party at Kampung Simunul near Semporna that caused a huge loss of life. Gunfire could be heard from nearby islands, and in this age of digital wireless communications, word spreads faster than before the last shot was fired that night. Instead, the official communiqué said it was a drug raid and was not related to the events in Kampung Tanduo. Mind you, although Kampung Tanduo is in the district of Lahad Datu it is much closer to the district of Semporna, gateway to the Tun Sakaran Marine Park, home to the tourist-packed islands of Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking and Sipadan. When this event finally hits the fan, and villagers took it upon themselves to dispatch of one of the militants themselves, did the authorities finally admitted what had happen.
Such silence only fuelled rumours, as stated in the sixth principle of Crisis Management: Beware of the Court of Public Opinion. The Opposition rumour-mill was quick with this, and the government was slow to react, relying on the service of contracted and non-contracted bloggers to do the public relations, while the Ministry of Communications was also slow in its response and did nothing to explain to the masses about the cession agreement so on and so forth, just a response made in passing by the Minister during an ad hoc interview. I often wonder if it was done in such a manner for self-promotion or that Radio Televisyen Malaysia, as an arm of the Ministry of Communications, did not have the time nor resources to come up with fillers to educate the general public on the crux of the issue in Lahad Datu.
In the end, the public wanted action. And finally, the Minister of Defence was roped in. He went back to KL to brief the Prime Minister on what needs to be done. Subsequently, the Prime Minister ordered the police and military to work together and do the necessary to end this. Only now we see a more structured concentration of force and economy of effort by the joint-military-police action against the militants. And finally, press conferences are handled by senior police and military officers who give hard, no-nonsense facts, rather than by politicians who are more familiar with sugar-coating facts.
And as the tenth principle of Crisis Management states: Every Crisis Is An Opportunity. Smart leaders would know that in the midst of a crisis, there is an opportunity to be seized. The government has announced an increase in the defence budget to support the formation of the East Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM). However, the decision to place this command under the Chief Minister of Sabah instead of the National Security Council could be erroneous.
Trust me, there will be more trouble. If there is a lesson to be learnt from all this, it is to leave defence and security matters in the hands of the professionals. Not politicians.
My pro-BN friends may not like this post. Just when they were having it good with this:
Then they decided that since they have the ammo to attack, they might as well use them all up:
In my opinion, it is good when you have all that ammunition and firepower, but it would also be equally good to know when to use what.
The Manila Times and Reuters articles linking Anwar Ibrahim to the incursion by Sulu militants, coupled with the death of nine of our servicemen in action against them, caught Anwar off-balance and was on the verge of falling down. His signature reactions of denials and threats to bring to court local mainstream media over the allegations, but not sue the foreign ones, underscore his guilty-conscience. Both the mainstream media and pro-BN websites were already all over him.
There was a brief attempt to divert the attention of all when the father of his purported sodomy victim made an about turn and announced that his son (the victim) has been part of a conspiracy to have Anwar found guilty of the act in order to deny him the chance of becoming the next Prime Minister of Malaysia. However, events in Lahad Datu proved overwhelming; and for a moment it seemed that it was almost game over for Anwar, as far as they eyes of those labelled as “the grey voters”. There was nothing more infuriating than having a Parliamentarian being instrumental in the act of aggression towards His Majesty’s security forces.
Then, before the public could grasp the gist of the whole situation in Lahad Datu, pro-BN websites started putting up screen captures of someone who looks like Anwar Ibrahim, in an intimate act with another male inside a hotel room.
To me, it is not even an overkill. It is rather like letting loose your ammo a la John Rambo, hoping to strike something. Instead, only the cheerleaders cheered while some other pro-BN supporters retorted. For the pro-Anwar, the standard-issue answers came out, ranging from the usual “it’s not him” to “this time they have found a much slimmer actor to match Anwar’s tummy.”
For the grey voters, this is a proof that both sides embark in gutter-politics. It is also a sign to them, although it may not be true, that the government cannot find a strong link between Anwar and the Sulu militants that the government had to resort to punching below the belt to get at Anwar before the next general election.
I don’t know why this issue was brought forth. Anwar’s sexual preferences is a foregone conclusion. you can find legal documents affirming this. At this juncture the pro-BN sites should just focus on the efforts of the BN government in assisting the people, instead of playing the same game that the pro-PR sites are playing. The saying “If you can’t beat them, join them” does not apply in this situation. You do not simply join those who swim in filth to prove that you could do it too. For those who support Anwar will continue to support him, just as those who attack him are staunchly BN. Not one person from either side is going to change his or her mind just because they see the clips of two men fondling each other.
But…the Grey ones might react negatively.
What the pro-BN sites should remember is there is no use in trying to change those who are Black into White; but rather change the Grey into a lighter shade. Unfortunately, this is not how some see it. It is their loss as they may find a high turnout in the next elections but still with a high number of protest or spoilt votes.
It would be an interesting election-results night.