Sabah east coast limping back to life

Azman Habu | March 7, 2013
Free Malaysia Today

The general consensus is that the situation in Lahad Datu is safe because Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is visiting.

LAHAD DATU: Life is creeping back into this east coast seaside town a week after the shock invasion and subsequent assault on an armed group of Filipino invaders who took over a remote village there.

The first signs that residents here are cautiously getting back to their routine, was when parents started dropping off their children at schools that reopened today in the town area after closing last Friday.

Only schools in town area are open. Those outside the town and near the conflict area of the Felda plantations remain closed.

“Schools are opened today but many student did not come to class probably because their parents are still unsure of the situation,” a resident said today.

Shops and businesses have also started to slowly reopen over the last few days and the daily traffic congestion on roads leading into the town areas that was habitual before the crisis broke has resumed.

“It looks like its back to almost normal but people are cautious and still uneasy,” said a parent hurriedly dropping off his child at school this morning.

The man who only gave his name as Kassim, said that it was a relief that they could get back to their normal lives after the tension of the last few weeks.

“It’s not the same as before. We will always be anxious as this is not something we can forget easily,” he said.

Services at hotels in the town are back to normal after hoteliers reported that many of their staff such as housekeepers and receptionists had not reported for work for a few days leaving guests to manage on their own.

The ubiquitous sight of illegal cigarette vendors squatting on the pavements was another indication that life is edging back to normal.

They were among the first to know of the oncoming “invasion” by an armed group from the Philippines and had tipped off many to be on their guard prior to the Feb 12 takeover of Kampung Tanduo in Tungku, about 160 km from here.

Optimism with Najib’s visit

Fatima, a 16-year-old who peddles contraband cigarettes by a road corner was among them. She returned on Sunday despite the tension as she said she had to make a living no matter what.

Squatters living in the seaside shanty towns that harbour thousands of illegal immigrants who had also fled their homes have also returned.

There were no obvious signs of enhanced security such as uniformed police patrols in the town or close to the schools. But there was a sense of weariness among those going about their business and buses full of security personnel were seen traveling in and out of town.

It is the same in Semporna where a bloody shootout took place on Saturday where several Malaysian policemen were killed and their bodies reportedly mutilated.

The markets are re-opened in both towns and shoppers could be seen buying vegetables, fish and other fresh foodstuff which they had run out of over the last week.

The marketplace in both towns as well as in Kunak where the odd Pakistani-run stall can be seen selling more upscale goods, is dominated by legal and illegal Filipinos of Suluk and Tausug descent. They sell vegetables and the days catch brought in by fishing boats and other household items.

Another boost for the people living in the east coast is news that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is due to visit Lahad Datu and perhaps Semporna.
“He wouldn’t be coming if the situation here is not safe,” said a Semporna resident who requested anonymity.

Security operation are continuing in the vicinity of Kg Tanduo where several of the armed group who are unaccounted for are said to be hiding after Tuesday’s assault on the village by Malaysian troops and police.

Meanwhile Bernama reported that elections in the areas effected by the Sulu invaders can only be postponed if a curfew is declared according to the Election Commission.

  1. #1 by Winston on Friday, 8 March 2013 - 9:40 am

    It’s safe because he visited?
    Was he alone when he visited?
    Or wasn’t he?
    If he doesn’t require a security cordon around him, then it’s safe, very safe.
    But not otherwise, especially for the the man in the street!!!

  2. #2 by boh-liao on Friday, 8 March 2013 - 9:43 am

    After curfew in d last few days, expect baby boom 9 months fr now
    Babies come, how come?

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Friday, 8 March 2013 - 9:46 am

    And YES, many hung LIMP n still
    Definition of limp: “not stiff or firm”

You must be logged in to post a comment.