From the Malaysia Chronicle (Jan 7): 'Group was trying to TAKE OVER Sabah'
THE group of 30 persons charged with offences linked to last year's Lahad Datu armed incursion were trying to wrest control of Sabah, said Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.
He told the High Court, in the prosecution's opening statement, that the prosecution would prove this by tendering evidence showing that witnesses were involved in negotiations with members of the terrorist group that took place in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, last year.
"The latter (members of terrorist group) expressed their intention to claim the state of Sabah," he said at the hearing before judge Steven Chung Hian Guan at Central Prison in Kepayan, near here yesterday.
Gani said after negotiations failed, the members of the terrorist group resorted to force and violence to challenge the government's authority by attacking Malaysian security forces patrolling the nearby area.
"The force and violence spread throughout the area, causing nine members of the Malaysian security forces to be brutally attacked and killed in Kampung Simunul, Semporna, and in some other areas in Lahad Datu, in Sabah.
"Fourteen members of the Malaysian security forces were injured as well," he said, adding that the prosecution would not only rely on oral and documentary evidence against the accused but also on confessions made by some of the accused persons.
Twenty two of the accused were charged with waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and being members of a terrorist group.
Jamalul Kiram III's nephew, Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, was among those charged.
Others facing both charges were Abd Hadi Mawan, Abdul Majil Jubin, Rijmal Salleh, Saidili Jaharul, Dani Ismail, Pabblo Alie, Mohamad Ali Ahmad, Basil Samiul, Rizman Gulan, and Totoh Hismullah.
Also charged with waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong were Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, Basad Manuel, Masir Aidin, Ismail Yasin, Anwar Salib Akhmad, Binhar Salib Akhmad, Virgilio Nemar Patulada alias Mohammad Alam Patulada, Salib Akhmad Emali, Al Wazir Osman@Abdul, Tani Lahad Dahi and Julham Rashid.
They were also charged with being members of a terrorist group with Aiman Radie, Lin Mad Salleh, Holland Kalbi and Timhar Hadir.
A local woman, Norhaida Ibnahi, and two men, Kadir Uyung and Lating Tiong, were charged with harbouring a group of terrorists, while Salib Ahmad faced an additional charge of recruiting for the group.
Gani is assisted by deputy public prosecutors Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar, Abdul Wahab Mohamad, Ishak Mohd Yusoff, Anati Kisahi, and Cheng Heng Kher.
The accused are represented by a team of lawyers led by Datuk N. Sivananthan.
The first prosecution witness, Senior Assistant Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, 57, Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Security and Public Order Division director, told the court the sight of 79 people armed with weapons caught his attention in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, early last year.
Some of them had rifles, one had a pistol, and many of them carried with them "barongs" or parang.
The armed group, consisting of men and women, were dressed in military fatigues with many types of emblems, he said, describing what he and Sabah Special Branch deputy chief Assistant Commissioner Zulkifli Abd Aziz saw when they drove into the village to negotiate with Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of the late Jamalul Kiram III, on Feb 15 last year.
"Three of the men were holding M16 (assault rifles) while another man was armed with a .45 calibre pistol on his waist.
"Almost all of them were also armed with barong slung across their torso or on waistbands," he said during examination-in-chief by Abdul Gani.
He said they, accompanied by three other policemen, entered the village between 10.45am and 11am that day, bringing rice and other necessities as requested by Agbimuddin.
He said he met Agbimuddin and was introduced by Zulkefli as Sergeant Major Haji Rashid.
He said after the introduction, he helped carry supplies from the vehicle to the kitchen of the house, where he met other members with whom he conversed in simple English and Bahasa Melayu and shared cigarettes with them.
He said that he overheard snippets of conversation between Zulkifli and Agbimuddin.
"Agbimuddin was saying that they would not leave the area as long as his brother, Sultan Ismail Kiram, did not come there personally and order them to leave," he said.
Abdul Rashid said they spent about an hour there before leaving at 12pm. Zulkifli told them they would return the next day.
"He (Zulkifli) also asked for permission from Agbimuddin to take pictures with them."
With a smile, Gani asked whether he also posed for the cameraman, to which Abdul Rashid said he did.
This elicited laughter from security personnel, lawyers, court officials and members of the media present in court.
The witness explained that this was all done as part of "ground appreciation" (reconnaissance) for future operations against the group of intruders.
He said this involved examination of the terrain, strength of the enemy, weapons carried by them and any other information that would assist the carrying out of future operations.
He said when he returned to Kampung Tanduo the following day, he counted 63 gunmen, different to those who had been present the previous day, and they were also armed.
Most of them carried a machette like on the previous day (Feb 15) and one had two grenade launchers hanging on his chest.
He also saw M16 rifles, Garand rifles, four Colt .45 pistols, a revolver and a carbine.
Hearing continues today.
The incident was still fresh in the minds of Lanao del Norte residents when they were asked how they would want the future Bangsamoro government to matter in their lives, whether they became its constituents or not.
In a public consultation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law last month, Moro and non-Moro people alike said the new autonomous entity should address the lingering problem of rido or family feud in many of the communities in the province. “Rido” as locally known among Maranaos and Maguindanaons is also prevalent in other provinces of ARMM as well as in the province of North Cotabato.
In a report by journalist Ryan Rosauro of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 4, he said that, “The meetings, in 13 clusters and conducted by the Lanao Peace Partnership on behalf of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission with the support from the GIZ Civil Peace Service, solicited grass-roots ideas that should be part of the charter of the Bangsamoro government. These attracted over a thousand people in 21 of the 22 towns and in 44 barangays of Iligan City”.
Rosauro quoted Gimaidee Ann Cadotdot of Pailig Academy for Grassroots Democracy who said that, “rido was the most common concern that cropped up during the consultations, even surpassing the issue of poverty”.
Based on discussions of the community experiences, the unresolved enmities weighed down economic development efforts. The participants in the consultation stressed that because of rido, many croplands had been left idle, as farmers are forced to evacuate. They didn’t feel they were safe from being targets of revenge attacks by feuding groups. To avoid further conflict warring families were resulting to selling their valuable lands and other properties to raise funds for blood money.
They stressed that much of the rido-related violent incidents had occurred in their communities, especially those in centers of trading activities.
While rido or its equivalent has been observed in other parts of the country, academician Abhoud Syed Lingga of the Institute for Bangsamoro Studies and member of the MILF Peace Panel said it was more pronounced in Moro communities, Rosauro quoted him saying.
Rido is related to the Moro people’s deep sense of personal pride and honor, what is referred to in Maranao and Maguindanaon as “maratabat.” If this sense of honor is violated, parties can engage in fits of violence to assuage the psychological hurt, said Rosauro in his report..
A 2005 study commissioned by the Asia Foundation showed that a feud could start even from minor matters. Those that turn bloody and protracted arise from disputes over land and political rivalry.
Rarely are the cases related to litigations in civil courts, which are still culturally alien to many ordinary Moros.
Rather, these trigger a cycle of vengeful attacks that stop only when settled, usually by traditional leaders wielding influence over the protagonists.
Asked to suggest measures to deal with rido, the participants in the public consultation meetings from communities where the presence of Moro rebels is strong, hoped the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would rein in its forces from joining revenge attacks.
Most MILF forces, they observed, had a hard time keeping distance from the rido of relatives. Another suggestion was to expand the coverage of the Shari’ah justice system to include criminal cases.
According to former Moro rebel leader Lacsamana Mutia, prescribing degrees of punishment under a justice system consistent with their cultural moorings would serve as deterrents to Muslim Bangsamoro constituents from committing acts of violence against other persons.
Still another idea was to build the capacity of governance structures—from the barangay up—to undertake dialogues. If the parties are brought into a dialogue to thresh out differences, rido may be arrested, the participants said.
The future Bangsamoro political entity is expected to feature “a plural system for the administration of justice,” as characterized by the government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in peace talks with the MILF. Ferrer is a political science professor of the University of the Philippines.