KOTA KINABALU: The labourer who claimed to have run into five armed men at a plantation in Lahad Datu has been arrested. He is an illegal immigrant.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said the 52-year-old man would be investigated under the Immigration Act.
Security forces did not find anything or anyone suspicious at the Felda Sahabat estate, where the man reported seeing the armed men.
Asked why the labourer only reported the sighting on May 14 when the alleged encounter took place on April 30, Ramli said: “Among the reasons the man gave us was that he was afraid of being arrested as he is an illegal immigrant.”
He assured the public that police were not closing the case although they had yet to find any proof of the man’s claims.
The labourer said he was working at a banana plantation when he heard people talking near a river.
He said he followed the voices and spotted five men armed with M16 rifles and wearing military fatigues.
The labourer claimed he spoke to two of the men in Tagalog and they told him they were not there to cause problems but to save people.
The five, he claimed, said they were part of a group of 37 but had separated from the main force.
They then let him leave the place without harming him.
On Thursday, 75 illegal immigrants were detained in a 10-hour integrated operation in six locations around the Felda Sahabat estate, including the area where the labourer claimed to have encountered the gunmen.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Wan Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said the 75 were Indonesians and Filipinos whose ages ranged from four to 70.
They were among 300 people screened during the operation which involved Esscom, the police, army, maritime enforcement officials, the Road Transport Department (JPJ), Immigration Department, National Registration Department, Fire and Rescue Services Department and Forestry Department.
Wan Bari said a 56-year-old Malaysian suspected of smuggling was also detained in the operation, and 3,480 cartons of cigarettes seized.
Meanwhile, JPJ officials issued a total of 20 summonses for various traffic offences.
“We will continue conducting crackdowns like this to prevent crime,” Wan Bari said.
He added that illegal immigrants were among the primary smugglers on Sabah’s east coast providing, among other things, fuel to cross-border criminals who would then commit abductions in Malaysian waters.