HOME MINISTER Hishammuddin Hussein cut a sorry figure against the background of the mini 'war' that erupted on the 'battlefield' of Lahad Datu. When the shooting started between the 'invaders' and Malaysian security forces, Hishammuddin made a fool of himself when he remarked that not a single shot was fired in the tense standoff. A firefight has broken out and there were already casualties and yet the minister was in blissful ignorance.
Hishammuddin was the man in charge of the Lahad Datu war theatre and should have remained on the ground from day one to get instant field reports about the gunfight. He failed to do that and the country was kept in the dark at the outbreak of violence. For a few hours bits and pieces of news reached the outside world and we read of mounting casualties on both sides. There were even reports that the “invaders” have called for reinforcements. It appeared that our security forces were in for a bashing.
Two Malaysian police commandos fell in the first exchange of gunfire and 12 terrorists were gunned down. Some escaped to the seas (have our submarine sunk?) but the rest are still holed up in the village. They are digging in for a long fight. Now Hishammuddin has gone down to the ground and has issued an ultimatum to the militants to surrender or face “drastic action”. Perhaps he has drastically changed his stand and realises that Malaysia is dealing not with tourists but real terrorists and invaders.
While Hishammuddin was twiddling his thumbs for weeks trying to figure out who are these uninvited “visitors”, his cousin, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was busily fighting his political war against the opposition and did not bother to issue a public statement about the attack on our sovereignty. He did not take the first flight out to Lahad Datu to assess the situation. The whole country was perplexed over this long silence from the man who should have taken charge of the situation from the outset.
He finally spoke out about defending the sovereignty of the country on the day the fatal shots rang out. It sounded rather hollow. Everyone has been talking loudly on the need for decisive action to evict the invaders but not Najib. Hishammuddin must have whispered into Najib’s ears that those intruders are actually nice people who must be treated with kid gloves. Cousin, give me more time, nothing to worry. Now, Najib is making loud noises and even suspects that the opposition has a hand in this diabolical plot (same old diversionary tactic).
Spinning Out Of Control
When the sovereignty of the country is threatened, the man who should take centre stage other than the prime minister is the defence minister. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should be in the thick of action but this defence minister was playing a bit role. Was he peeved that the army was reportedly sidelined? Is there a “turf war” between his ministry and the home ministry? Zahid was ready to call out the army to crush civilian protests, but did not move heaven and earth to dislodge the real enemies in our home.
The invaders are said to be descendants of the Sulu sultanate, who are fighting to reclaim Sabah. That gives it an international flavour because the Philippines has long laid claim on the state and it had been a thorn in our side for many decades. The Malaysian Foreign Ministry should have come into the picture to find out from Manila whether it is still pursuing the claim. If the Philippines has not dropped the claim, then the army of the Sulu sultanate will continue to bug us.
But Foreign Minister Anifah Aman is reportedly in the dark over the Lahad Datu flare-up. Hishammuddin, Hamidi and Anifah should be key players but the trio were never seen together co-ordinating a joint response to one of the gravest threats the country is facing. When the country is “invaded” all the political masters and all the heads of the three branches of the Malaysian Armed Forces – the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Malaysian Army and the Royal Malaysian Air Force – should step out on the podium and reveal to the nation their war plan. But the stage was empty and dark most of the time.
All Malaysians have a stake in the security of the country. People want to know what the government is doing to repel foreign invaders. The prime minister and his ministers must reassure the public that the country they call their home is safe and sound. When Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim floated the idea of convening a special sitting of Parliament to discuss the Lahad Datu crisis, Najib should set aside political differences and adopt a common stand. But he is unlikely to come down a notch for fear Anwar may get the credit, especially when the national polls is getting nearer.
Now the situation is spinning out of control. The invaders meant business when they vowed to fight to the death. Casualties are mounting, with more policemen killed. Unconfirmed reports have also emerged that more militants are arriving on our shores. The terrorists have thrown down the gauntlet and the Malaysian Armed Forces can do no less than to pick it up and face them head-on. This is no phoney war. This is real war. (FMT)