LAHAD DATU, Feb 20 – Three Al-Jazeera journalists were among seven people detained by police off waters at Tanjung Labian, near here this morning in an apparent bid to attempt a landing at Kampung Tanduo, the hideout of hundreds of followers of the Sulu Sultanate.
The others caught early this morning were three Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) youths as well as the boatmen.
The news was first broken by SAPP Tungku Central Liaison Committee (CLC) chairman Suaib Mutalib, who in a statement disclosed the arrests.
Later in the afternoon Sabah police chief, Datuk Hamza Taib (picture) confirmed the arrests saying the seven were spotted in a boat by a General Operations Force (GOF) team at about 8am.
Six were later released by police after their particulars were taken down and given a stern warning not to repeat their “ill-planned” adventure.
The seventh person, presumably the boatman was detained further as his travel documents were not in order.
Hamza said the three journalists and the youths had earlier tried to enter Tanduo by a land route but had failed.
Hamza reminded all journalists, local and foreign, as well as all other parties, not to even try and enter the said area for security reasons.
“Please let us do our jobs. Our focus is to ensure the safety of the people and we do not wish to see any unforeseen incidences happening,” he said.
Police have cordoned off the area in the vicinity of Tanduo since last Tuesday after several hundred people said to be the Royal Army of Sulu and the Sultan’s followers had intruded into the area.
Suaib in his statement to the media said the three youths, including SAPP Tungku Youth Chief Mohd Ahsraf Amir were accompanying the foreign journalists who wanted to cover the stand-off.
“They were taken to the Chenderawasih Police Station at Tungku and only released seven and half hours later at about 3.30pm after police took their statements,” Suaib said.
Suaib who is also SAPP Assistant Secretary General added that situation in and around Lahad Datu at present was now different.
He said many parents were reluctant to send their children to school while most shops also closed early.
He added it seems that the stand-off between Malaysian security forces and the Filipino armed group scared the people.
The stand-off started when the Filipino armed group intruded into Malaysian waters and gathered at Kampung Tanduo about 130km from here.
Meanwhile, SAPP information chief Chong Pit Fah said the government should allowed foreign journalists to enter the area and cover the incident.
He said international and neutral coverage would enable the people to get a true picture of what is really happening.
“All this while we are fed with BN government controlled media, which reports might not be fully accurate,” he said.
He added that local or international journalists should be allowed to enter certain areas near where the stand-off is taking place. – The Borneo Insider