Sulu's 'secret invasion' of Sabah plan most likely hatched for political support

KOTA KINABALU: The purported plan for an "invasion" of Sabah was likely concocted to drum up the support of local communities ahead of next year's Philippine elections, sources say.

Sources familiar with the political modus operandi of warlords in Sulu province suspect that calls for the invasion would go down well with the local Tausug communities in Jolo and other islands there.

"It is more a political play to win the elections. Whoever brings up the Sabah claim can gain greater support from the Tausug community," a regional intelligence source said when contacted on Thursday (Dec 9).

The source noted that issues of intrusion and kidnappings always emerged when the Philippines held elections, with some warlords encouraging abductions to raise political funds for their electoral bids.

However, he said any information of such talk should be thoroughly probed and steps must be taken to strengthen eastern Sabah security.

Bukit Aman's Internal Security and Public Order Department director Datuk Hazani Ghazali also suspects that the latest talk had to do with elections in the Philippines.

"Yes (we are aware of the reports) .. it is more on politics ... the election (there)," said Hazani, who was previously Sabah Police Commissioner and also Esscom commander.

However, he said Malaysian security forces were prepared to face any threats that might arise.

Esscom commander Comm Datuk Ahmad Fuad Othman said their intelligence had in fact received word of such movements earlier on and had made attempts to get more information.

"Now, we are still trying to verify these (claims) with our counterparts," he said when contacted.

He said border control and patrols have been tightened, but assured the people that no abnormal movements from outside Malaysian waters have been detected thus far.

Comm Ahmad Fuad said talk of invasion and Sulu forces trying to attack Sabah have been an ongoing threat throughout the years.

During the Sabah Budget 2022 winding up, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the state government had yet to get confirmation of this alleged plot.

"I cannot comment on this yet because we have not received information about this report," he said, referring to a South China Morning Post report.

The report claimed that there was a secret meeting among 19 mayors in Sulu province to discuss the recruitment of 600 armed fighters to set up a "Royal Sulu Army" to invade Sabah.

The meeting was allegedly held with a senior political figure in Sulu who ordered each mayor to carry out recruitment for the force.

The report, quoting a regional security official, also alleged that there were spies sent to scope out coastal towns, though no one has infiltrated yet.

The source said the meeting was allegedly conducted by a locally-elected official of Sulu province, who gathered mayors from the Sulu Archipelago to discuss plans to set up the invasion force.

In 2013, over 200 armed Sulu militants had entered Sabah via Lahad Datu, resulting in a month-long standoff and armed skirmishes in their bid to forcefully claim Sabah as theirs.
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