SHAH ALAM: As I had mentioned before the Sabah situation is delicate – on one hand we want to end the Lahad Datu stand-off but at the same time the authorities feared the large number of BangsaMoro living in the state and those one-hour speed boat away would also enter the fray.
Well, what was feared actually occurred last night at Semporna, some 180km from Kampung Tanduo, the location of the 3-week-old stand-off. Six (updated) police officers were killed including one who was decapitated after he was taken hostage in the incident. Even at this point the powers that be seemed clueless what to do next.
However by looking too intently at the bigger strategic picture, the authorities seemed to lose track of tactical matters.
Hence we continue to commit mistakes which resulted in the increasing number of casualties. One of the biggest is to under-estimate the capabilities of the Moro people. Yes they may not be wearing tactical pants and boots but they are the original jungle fighters who are fighting in their own surroundings. Our police and soldiers are good jungle fighters too but why are we trying to conduct a counter-insurgency operations when we have extra fire power at our disposal?
Another mistake was to allow those in Kampung Tanduo to fortify their positions for nearly three weeks. This was not the smartest thing to do as shown by the skirmish on Friday which saw two VAT69 troopers killed. And after killing 12 of the fighters, we allowed them to re-group again, issuing yet another ultimatum for them to surrender and instead ending the stand-off there and then.
So what is the next best course of action? End the Kampung Tanduo decisively, either by a frontal assault (which seemed to be the favoured option or my preferred choice of an artillery bombardment either by the Navy or Army) before conducting a clearing up operation along the whole eastern coast of Sabah. There is no other option. The time is no longer for talking.