Sabah stand-off: PM Najib rejects ceasefire with militants, plans security zone
LAHAD DATU - Malaysia will only accept a ceasefire from the Philippine militants who invaded Sabah if they lay down arms and surrender unconditionally, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday.
He also announced that a special security zone will be set up on Sabah's eastern shores.
"He (Philippine President Benigno Aquino) asked for Malaysia's response to Jamalul's statement that he has asked his soldiers to surrender unilaterally," Mr Najib said at a press conference.
"I said they must lay down their arms unconditionally."
He was referring to the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram's earlier call for a unilateral ceasefire after Malaysia's security forces attacked the militants hiding in a remote village in eastern Sabah.
They had landed in Sabah almost a month ago as the army of the Sultan to "reclaim" Sabah for the Sulu Sultanate which ruled North Borneo several centuries ago. A gun battle broke out last weekend, killing at least 27 people including eight Malaysian policemen.
The Malaysian security forces launched a large-scale military operation on Tuesday to flush them out. The area is still closed for inspection by the army.
Mr Najib arrived in the coastal town of Lahad Datu in east Sabah on Thursday to inspect the 'Ops Daulat' (Ops Sovereignty) operation.
He said operations against the insurgents will go on "as long as it takes."
He also said a special security zone from Kudat in north Sabah to Tawau on its eastern shores will be set up, and patrolled by five battalions of the armed forces and police to safeguard its security.
This would cover more than half of Sabah's long and porous coastline.
"I want to assure that the government will do anything to guarantee the security and sovereignty of Sabah," he said.
The gunmen had reportedly arrived by boat to coastal village of Tanduo, about 160km from Lahad Datu. The area is just about an hour's boat ride away from the islands in southern Philippines.