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Lahad Datu: Life limping back to normalcy
Publication Date : 09-03-2013
Like many other eastern Sabah towns in Malaysia gripped by the fear of attacks from armed intruders for the past three weeks, life is limping back to normalcy in this springboard town to the diving havens of Sipadan and Mabul.
Rumours of shootings and sightings of armed Sulu intruders in military fatigue have waned and police have made efforts to convince the public that they are in full control of the situation.
Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Kinabatangan towns saw large crowds attending Friday prayers although schools and some shops remained closed in certain areas.
Sandbags and roadblocks manned by heavily armed police and General Operations Forces were seen along the road from Lahad Datu to Semporna, about 130km away.
Near a roadblock leading to Semporna town at about 10 am, three men - one in handcuffs - were detained from a car as they attempted to pass through.
A Semporna police official said they were detained for screening but declined to say if they were sympathisers of the so-called Sulu royal army or had any link to Saturday night’s shooting at Simunul water village where six police personnel and six gunmen were killed.
Police have detained scores of suspected local sympathisers of the Sulu gunmen over the past week. Among them were several uniformed personnel, relatives of the self-proclaimed Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and a local politician.
Tour operators in Semporna, who were previously on edge with shops pulling down their shutters at the slightest hint of trouble, said some of them were resuming their trips to Mabul and Sipadan diving havens.
In Kunak, about 70km away where talk of the presence of Sulu armed men led to the closures of the shops last week, saw coffeeshops filled with the usual crowd although several shops remained closed.
Businesses in Lahad Datu town and Felda townships in several Sahabat schemes outside the red zone were also coming back although caution is still in the air.
Malaysian maritime, marine police and naval boats were on alert in Sabah waters to prevent any intrusion by sea.
Fifty schools in Lahad Datu and Semporna, which were temporarily closed following the intrusion of Sulu gunmen, would be reopened on Monday, said Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi.
Any decision to extend the closure would depend on advice and security information issued by the National Security Council (NSC), he said.
“If NSC says it is safe to occupy the schools, we will open them,” he said after presenting contributions to the family of Sjn Azis Sarikon who was killed during the intrusion in Semporna on March 2.
“Security personnel will be stationed at the school,” he said.
The eight schools still closed in Lahad Datu are SK Tambisan, SK Tanjung Labian, SK Sahabat 16, SK Lok Buani, SK Sahabat 14, SK Cenderawasih, SK Fajar Harapan, SMK Desa Kencana.
In Semporna, 40 primary schools and nine secondary schools remain closed.