THE situation in Sabah hogged the limelight in the Chinese press today with commentators saying that the state may continue to face security problems in future, despite the current operation to flush out Sulu intruders in Lahad Datu.
Sin Chew Daily deputy editor-in-chief Lim Sue Goan, in an article titled "Sabah security is at the edge of the cliff", cited several factors that could lead to further unrest in Sabah.
They included the presence of a large number of immigrants, poverty, long coastline that is convenient for the armed intruders to sneak in, lots of water villages lack surveillance, and mountainous areas that enable the armed intruders to hide.
Lim further commented that the current operation may be more than enough to wipe out Sulu intruders in Lahad Datu. But the country has to be cautious as other Sulu gunmen might slip in from other parts of Sabah.
Militants may fight back
Besides that, Lim said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gunmen might sneak in to assist the Sulu intruders. These militants are not afraid of death, and if they seek revenge and attack Sabah from time to time, it would be difficult to safeguard security.
Furthermore, if the fight continues and affects their livelihood, the Sulu people who have settled down in Sabah might show sympathy for the Sulu intruders. "Don't forget, poverty is a breeding ground for terrorism," he said.
Tham Seen Chin, a senior journalist with Oriental Daily News highlighted the same concerns. In his article titled "Implications of Sulu intrusion", he said the current assault by Malaysian security forces will worsen the relationship between Malaysia and militant groups based in southern Philippines. If the Sulu militants dealt with Malaysia the way they did with the Philippines, Sabah's security, economic growth, and tourism will be seriously affected.
Tham further pointed out that there is a huge number of illegal Filipino immigrants in Sabah. It is a long perplexing issue for Sabahans. "Is it possible that some of the Sulu militants might hide amongst these immigrants and are waiting for an opportunity to strike back? Does the Malaysian government have the ability to identify them?" he asked.
Rafidah: Intrusion nothing to do with IC project
Meanwhile China Press quoted former International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz as saying that the current intrusion by Sulu gunmen has nothing to do with the alleged large scale granting of Malaysian identity cards to foreigners. It is merely a "foreign intrusion", she said.
Rafidah told the daily that the intrusion should not be linked to the government's move of giving citizenship to Filipino immigrants and Sulu descendants.
Stressing that no country could monitor maritime boarders without flaw, she said that with Sabah having a long coastline and being located near the Philippines, it was not easy to prevent Filipinos from sneaking in.
"It is easier to control land border than maritime border. The Mexicans also enter the United States through the sea," she added.
Hearings by the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Sabah's immigrants have revealed that a large number of ICs had been given out to immigrants during the period when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohmad was the the prime minister. Rafidah had served as a minister under Mahathir.