Authorities had prior news of Sulu intrusion, shocking testimony by witness

JULY 16, 2013

The authorities were alerted about the intentions of the armed Sulu terrorists two weeks before they began arriving in Lahad Datu, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants in Sabah was told today.

Lahad Datu district officer Zulkifli Nasir said he was called for a meeting by the district police chief Supt Shamsudin Mat in February and told about the planned landing of the armed intruders.

“I was told that Lahad Datu was the main target of the armed intruders and informed that the issue was top secret. I was warned not to leak any news about the issue,” he told the RCI five-men panel, led by former Sabah and Sarawak Chief Justice Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong.

“Swift police action boxed in the armed Sulu terrorists in Kampung Tanduo and prevented them from attacking Lahad Datu,” said Zulkifli, the 177th witness called so far before the panel.

He also revealed that the demolition of squatter colonies and deportation of illegal immigrants decreased considerably after 2008 due to certain reasons, including lack of cooperation from various agencies, lack of a strong political will and general apathy from landowners.

“Landowners should inform the district office if they have knowledge of illegal construction being carried out on their land, especially in villages. But everyone keeps quiet and that is how a squatter colony can suddenly emerge,” Zulkifli said.

He confirmed that Lahad Datu was flooded with illegal immigrants, who were attracted to the area due to its economic and employment opportunities.

Zulkifli confirmed that there were 13 squatter colonies in the district.

“There are about 77,000 illegal immigrants staying in various locations around Lahad Datu. In the 13 squatter colonies, there are 15,053 people and 70 per cent of that figure are illegals,” he said.

Asked where the rest of the illegal immigrants were based, Zulkifli said many of them worked as labourers or in the palm oil plantations. About 60 per cent of Lahad Datu is oil palm plantations.

However, Zulkifli said he didn’t know whether the big plantation companies employed local workers or illegal immigrants.

There were many illegal immigrants who made a living in Lahad Datu.

“The illegal immigrants operate businesses without license in Lahad Datu, selling smuggled cigarettes, fish, goods and other stuff. Some of them are also employed by local businessmen without permits.”

Zulkifli said he had less than 20 enforcement officers but they carried out raids and patrols daily. However, it was in vain as the illegals would flee when they got wind of the operation, only to return after two to three hours.

“This is the daily routine of my officers, the illegals get tipped off about the raids and run helter skelter to avoid being arrested. But they always return later and resumed doing their business,” Zulkifli said.

He also acknowledged that there were two popular landing points in Lahad Datu for illegal immigrants coming in by boat. One was Kampung Tanduo in Felda Sahabat and the other was Felda 1.

“Yes, it is extremely easy for immigrants from the Philippines to enter and exit Malaysia. Once here, they merely need to hook up with their relatives who are scattered throughout Lahad Datu. “Despite this well-known fact, the district security committee is of the opinion that the district is safe and secure. But the Lahad Datu incursion has opened the eyes of many residents on how easy it is to enter the country,” he said.

Zulkifli said he had not seen any evidence regarding the issuance of identity cards to illegal immigrants but had heard many rumours. He added that he had come across many migrants who possessed identity cards but were clearly foreigners due to the way they spoke. – July 16, 2013.


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