Wider security threat from Sabah militants

KOTA KINABALU • Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has warned that the security threat posed by militant groups has spread from Sabah's east coast to areas on the west coast.

"Previously, the threat was only in the east coast of Sabah, but security patrols in the east coast have now been tightened. The security challenge in Sabah now is not only confined to the east coast but has widened to the west coast too," Datuk Dr Zahid said yesterday, at the opening of the Security and Public Order Seminar 2016 at Universiti Malaysia Sabah in Kota Kinabalu.

"Intelligence information reveals that there are commanders from a sultanate appointed in every State Legislative Assembly constituency in Sabah. This is a serious security matter. This is a matter of real threat to the country," he was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency.

Some 200 Filipino followers of a self-declared heir of the Sulu sultanate took over a Sabahan village in Tanduo, near Lahad Datu, in February 2013, to stake their claim to the resource-rich state, resulting in clashes with Malaysian security forces which left more than 60 people dead.

The Sulu sultan once ruled over islands that are now parts of the southern Philippines, as well as Sabah. The sultanate leased northern Borneo to Europeans in the 1870s.

ON THE ALERT

Intelligence information reveals that there are commanders from a sultanate appointed in every State Legislative Assembly constituency in Sabah. This is a serious security matter. This is a matter of real threat to the country.

MALAYSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI, on the growing risk from militants across Sabah.

Although the sultanate's authority gradually faded, its heirs continued to receive lease payments for Sabah, even after the former British colony became part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.

While the Philippines has never completely dropped the claim to Sabah, it has largely declined to raise it. However, some Filipino politicians occasionally drum up the issue in the hopes of gaining popular support.

Mr Jejomar Binay, the Philippines Vice-President and the leading contender in upcoming May elections, was quoted by Manila newspapers last month as saying he would pursue a claim over Sabah.

His comments led to Malaysia summoning the Philippine envoy in Kuala Lumpur, although President Benigno Aquino had previously condemned the Sabah incursion.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'Wider security threat from Sabah militants'. Print Edition | Subscribe