KOTA KINABALU: The so-called Royal Sulu Force (RSF), accused of the armed intrusion into Lahad Datu in 2013, is in disarray and not in a position to make any similar incursions, says a Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist.
Prof Octavio Dinampo said the self-styled Sulu sultanate that was behind the RSF was disorganised because it was beset with problems stemming from the many claimants to its throne.
“Also, the armed groups in the Sulu province, including the Abu Sayyaf, are now trying to escape the Philippine military offensives against them.
“These groups are incapable of doing anything,” he said in an interview yesterday.
Octavio said that if there was any talk of something significant being planned by the RSF, it would usually be spread by local communities in the Sulu province. “But there are no such rumours,” he said.
He was commenting on claims by a labourer that he had seen five armed Filipino men in military fatigues at a plantation in Felda Sahabat 2, about 100km from the east coast of Lahad Datu town, on April 30.
The worker only told Malaysian security forces about what he had seen some two weeks later and alleged that the group had spoken to him in Tagalog.
According to him, the armed men had said that they were part of a group numbering 37 “who had come to save Sabah”.
On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Felda Sahabat area in Lahad Datu had been cordoned off as Malaysian security forces mounted an operation to verify the labourer’s claims.
Eastern Sabah Security Command chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wan Bari Wan Khalid was quoted as saying that police were puzzled by the 52-year-old man’s claims because there was nothing suspicious in the area.
However, he said, security forces would keep a close watch.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Ramli Din said the worker was being questioned on why he lodged a report so long after sighting the armed men.
“We are not taking anything for granted,” he said yesterday.
On Oct 30, 2014, two suspected RSF operatives were shot dead by policemen at the Penampang Baru township.
On Feb 11, 2013, more than 230 armed militants entered Lahad Datu after arriving in boats from southern Philippines. Their objective was to assert the Sulu sultanate’s claim to eastern Sabah.
By the end of the incident on March 24, 56 militants lay dead at the cost of six civilians and 10 Malaysian security forces personnel.