KOTA KINABALU: Sabah police chief Idris Abdullah has rubbished a news report claiming that an armed militia from the Philippines was hatching plans to invade the state.
He said security forces were trying to verify the claim.
“So far, we don’t have any information on that (secret meetings to send armed groups to Sabah),” he told FMT.
“Maybe you can ask (the news publication) where they got the information from. I also want to know … but it’s not true.
“These kinds of rumours are not good as they can cause panic among the people.”
He said it came at a time when the state was trying to open up its economic and tourism sectors after they were badly affected by the pandemic.
Idris said the Philippines would soon hold its presidential election and all sorts of “untrue” stories were bound to surface during this period.
“From a safety standpoint, although this information looks invalid, we are not taking anything for granted,” he said.
The South China Morning Post, quoting a senior regional security source reported earlier today that there was a secret meeting between 19 mayors of the Sulu archipelago to discuss plans to invade Sabah.
This meeting, said to have taken place on Dec 1 and conducted by “a locally elected official of Sulu province”, supposedly involved talks over recruiting up to 600 men in order to establish a “Royal Sulu Army”.
Moyog assemblyman Darell Leiking, who is also the Warisan deputy president, brought up the news report in the state assembly sitting today.
He asked chief minister Hajiji Noor if the state government was investigating the matter.
Hajiji said he had yet to receive any information on the matter.
In 2013, more than 200 armed militants from Sulu set out from Jolo in the southern Philippines and landed on Sabah’s east coast Lahad Datu district to reclaim the land which they claimed still belonged to the Sulu.
The conflict lasted two months and there were casualties on both sides.
The Filipino claim to Sabah has been a long-standing issue and scores of state politicians have often urged Putrajaya to intervene and get Manila to drop its claim once and for all.
Former deputy home minister Azis Jamman had highlighted the issue when debating on the 12th Malaysia Plan in Parliament in October,
The Sepanggar MP said the federal government should push the Philippines to drop its claim over Sabah.
He said it was disappointing that the dispute remained unresolved 58 years after the formation of Malaysia.