Alyaa Azhar | March 13, 2013
Free Malaysia Today
Media organisations are urged to highlight the misery of indigenous peoples living in the Lahad Datu area.
KUALA LUMPUR: A group representing Sabah natives has urged the media to highlight the suffering indigenous peoples have to bear as Malaysian forces battle Sulu invaders in the state.
Andrew Ambrose, who leads the Sabah Coalition of Human Rights Organisations (Sacohuro), told reporters today that the presence of security forces in the Lahad Datu area had severely disrupted the lives of locals.
He paid tribute to the soldiers and policemen fighting the invaders and offered his sympathies to the families of the fallen, but said the natives too were losing their lives in a sense.
“The presence of security forces have been greatly felt, thanks to the media, which have been showing images of them on ground zero on a daily basis,” said Ambrose.
“But the people of Sabah, especially the indigenous people, are feeling insecure and helpless.
“Our fears are justified. Recently, a gunman threatened the father of a member of one of our support organisations. We believe the stranger was one of the intruders.
“It’s hard enough to live in fear. But not only have we been deprived of our right to be safe; our freedom of movement too has been restricted.”
He said roadblocks put up by the security forces had added to the misery of the locals.
“Roadblocks have limited the people from performing their daily routines and earning their livelihood.”
Ambrose was speaking at a press conference arranged by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
He said one of the dangers faced by Lahad Datu folk came in the form of misinformation, together with the failure of authorities to give an accurate picture of the situation on the ground.
“It is normal for people to sympathise with the families of servicemen who have lost their lives, but over-sympathising of one party can make the situation a lot worse,” he said.
“There are many others who are victims too, including the minority communities.”
He called on the United Nations to conduct a high-level fact-finding mission on the Sabah situation before making assumptions or deciding on a course of action.
He cautioned against militarisation of the area before the completion of such a mission.
“We want our government to guarantee our safety and security because any form of intrusion into our nation or threat to our national sovereignty would be a violation of our rights,” he said.