I have sung the anthem of four states and a federal territory during my lifetime. On Wednesday, I sang the fifth one and it was the most inspirational ever.
Sabah Tanah Airku that morning triggered my love for this land below the wind even more and made me proud that even under extreme threat and duress we stand resolute not only as a nation but also as strong believers in the principle of justice and freedom that our constitution reflects.
This incursion into Lahad Datu is an incursion into Malaysia, an incursion into our homeland and I would like to believe that I had felt as close to what the native Sabahans standing around me singing their song were feeling.
The adrenaline surged, the goose bumps tingled and the heart raced.
The test of maturity of a nation I guess is as much as in the sense of a shared collective as it is in the slogans and symbols.
I am not Gen Y but I was too late for the struggles of the early birth of Malaysia in1960s and too young to understand the subsequent early efforts of nation building and social engineering in the 1970s.
But this one, where we stood with the villagers of Kg. Tanduo, Kg. Sg. Nyamuk, Kg. Tg Batu and others in the terrorism affected areas of Lahad Datu and Semporna in our resolve, where we wholeheartedly pray for the daily safety of our frontline security forces, where we grief with our fallen heroes’ families, this is a memory imprint in perpetuity.
From today onwards I hope Sabahans won’t begrudge me for I am going to make this song close to my heart too as I believe in this state and all its wonderful people, assets and potential. For all these to come under threat from a hugely desperate, sickeningly opportunistic and grossly misguided group of people make me want to be a part of this homeland even more.
This is my take away from being at “The Political Transformation Conference: ESSZONE and Sabah Security” in Sutera Harbour on Wednesday.
Two key figures of our on-going efforts against the Sulu terrorists, the Malaysian Attorney General and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, proved that even under murderous hail of shoot-to-kill bullets and cold blooded thrusts of the sharpened barong, our utmost interest is in the safety of all by means not of brute force flamed by seething anger and blind vengeance but by wisdom of holistic thinking, meticulously smart strategy and steadfastly human values.
That’s why Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar started his clear and graphic powerpoint presentation of the East Sabah security situation and the terrorism menace with the story of tanda `wau’. The headman of Kg. Tanduo related to him how the village was known as Kampung Tanduo. The shape of the river mouth at the village was like the shape of the Jawi letter `wau’. Jawi is widely used since ages ago in southern parts of the Phillipines.
Tan Sri Khalid’s presentation had all the satellite imageries, never before seen footages of the terrorists, up to date statistics and etc. But it was the human approach element to his narrative that attracted me the most.
If we are to secure the east of Sabah from the present terrorist threats and even from future ones sustainably, we can’t just fight them with more policemen and soldiers covering every centimeter of the coastline.
We need to understand the local people and communities in the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (ESSZONE). We need to take care of them by putting their safety first, ensuring their well-being, health and peace plus protecting their constitutional backed rights even in the face of security threats.
Those are the main imperatives I absorbed from Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail when he presented the objectives of the Preservation of Public Security Regulations 2013 and the establishment of the ESSZONE. Delivering his points in the typical straight talking with legal jargons and phrases inserted in between, Tan Sri Abdul Gani emphasised that never at anytime of the coming execution of ESSZONE must the objectives be compromised as they are put there to protect and empower the people NOT to curb, alienate and trample their rights and freedom to enjoy life as guaranteed by law and constitution.
The present laws are sufficient already for our security forces to seek out and bring to justice the remnants of the terrorists, and now with ESSZONE not just the security forces but all relevant government agencies can be mobilised efficiently together to ensure not only peace but also continuation of economic and livelihood activities, education and yes, even the ability to go out and vote safely.
Resolute in rule of law and justice
So as I understand it from the conference today, ESSZONE is definitely NOT an emergency like declaration, NOT giving more powers to PDRM, NOT about curbing anyone’s rights at all not even for the illegal immigrants or the stateless persons.
Maybe it is the touch of wisdom of Tan Sri Abdul Gani’s growing up years in Lahad Datu and Sabah east coast imbued in the narrative.
Maybe it is just the Sabah way of being steep in values while being practical with the surroundings and with needs of the current time.
Or might it be the refreshing breeze gently caressing from the South China Sea.
Sabah Tanah Airku sets the mood, the two esteemed presenters stated their case and the strong in quality civil society present mooted and even argued their responses.
Whatever it is, for this assignment I choose to feel the spirit of the law and regulations as much as the provisions of the laws and the mechanics of its implementation.
And that was the editorial angle I entered from for my exclusive interview with Tan Sri Abdul Ghani and Tan Sri Khalid recorded after the conference. Please tune in to this special Agenda Awani on channel 501 at 10pm or watch the live streaming here tonight to find out lots more.
Now, if only those willing to be terrorists and to organise terrorism from the islands across the border listen, listen and listen to Sabah Tanah Airku, they will know how futile it is to dare to test our resolve for the Sabah people has chosen where they wanted to be decades ago and all of us of Malaysians are surely willing to stand up and defend their rights by standing resolute in rule of law and justice.