Thursday, May 23

Sulu gunmen given until today to leave Sabah


KOTA KINABALU: Foreign Minister Datuk Sri Anifah Haji Aman yesterday briefed reporters that the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III have been given till today to leave Sabah.

They have been in Lahad Datu since Feb 9.

“The Philippine government has tried every effort and they have denounced the people and said there was no way they have the support from the Philippine government. The Philippine government wants to work closely with us to avoid any bloodshed,” he said after witnessing the presentation ceremony of the 1Malaysia Book Voucher at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) near here.

He added that he had conveyed the request from the Philippine government for an extension of the Malaysian dateline for Kiram’s followers to leave Sabah to Tuesday, next week.

“They asked until Tuesday, but the Home Minister has agreed to give them until today,” he said.

He said he was not well briefed on the issue and that reporters could get the latest status from the Commissioner of Police as well as from the Home Minister.

Anifah also commented that he was shocked with the intrusion at Lahad Datu but stressed that for some people, carrying weapons was just part and parcel of their life.

“For those people who have not experienced peace for so long, carrying weapons is part and parcel of life,” he said.

He cited that in Gaza, for example, getting shot and bombed at was not an extra-ordinary occurrence.

“That is why I say we are lucky in Malaysia. Two of the things I check when I go out are my keys and my telephone. But in countries like that, people sleep with guns and weapons. When you go out of your home without weapons, you feel naked. It is already ingrained in their mind,” he said.

And after the incident, how would other countries look at Malaysia, Anifah was further asked.

“What’s special about Malaysia is that we are tolerant, we accommodate but at same time we are firm. When it is time to take action, we take action. And when action is taken, (it is when) we have taken all factors into consideration.”

Earlier in his speech, he also mentioned that Malaysia has been viewed as a symbol of hope for peace by the people in Gaza.

He said in his speech that his first impression of the people of Gaza was that they constantly lived in fear.

“But no. They tell me Malaysia is very lucky and that they hope it will remain peaceful and provide hope for them.”

He also reminded those attending the ceremony yesterday of the revolution that took place in Egypt, forcing 11,000 Malaysian students to flee Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Syria.

“We have a favorable condition here … before the revolution, our students could survive with the scholarship provided. But after that, their cost of living has risen by 200 per cent and the Yayasan Sabah students are asking for a higher budget.”

He said the unfavorable political conditions in those countries have brought tourism, one of their major revenues, to a standstill, affecting the cost of living there.