By Siti Zubaidah Abdullah
(This special report is released in conjunction with the intrusion episode in Lahat Datu, Sabah in early 2013).
SEMPORNA (Bernama) — On 11 Feb, 2013 a group of armed men from South Philippines made their way to Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu purportedly sent by the so called Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III to stake claim on Sabah.
With negotiations to end the intrusion ending in a stalemate, on March 1, 2013 a shootout occurred in Kampung Tanduo where two policemen were killed. The following day another six policemen were killed in an ambush in Kampung Sri Jaya, Siminul in Semporna.
Subsequently, the Ops Daulat launched on March 5 Mac managed to defeat the enemies with the final dead toll being 59 on the Sulu side and nine on the security forces side.
While the nation and Malaysians are proud of the valour and the sacrifices of those who died in the line of duty, the families are feeling the loss and only the memories of the heroes now live on.
CONTINUING WITHOUT THE HUSBAND
Siti Bandorah Mahali, 40, is carrying on with life on her own after her husband Sgt Abdul Azis Sarikon was killed in the attack in Siminul.
Her routine for the last one year has changed with Siti Bandorah taking on the role of the father as well in bringing up the children.
“Previously when I fall sick my husband will manage with the children, now when I fall sick I still have to think of the children. I have to take care of my health for the sake of my children,” she told BERNAMA when met at her residence here recently.
Since her husband’s demise, Siti Bandorah has been keeping herself busy by managing with her children’s schooling and visiting her family during the day.
CHANGES WERE EVIDENT
Recalling the events leading to her husband’s fate, she said the last call she received was at 5.30 p.m. where he asked her to fetch his nephew from Semporna town as he had to take part in a security operation in Simunul.
“My husband had participated in many operations before but this time he was not sure when the operations would end. While I was in town, I heard of a gun fight in Simunul and I immediately tried contacting my husband but the phone went unanswered until the next day,” she said.
Months earlier she did see some changes in her husband especially since November 2012 when they visited the husband’s family in Johor.
“While staying in the village in Johor for more than a month he did not go out or put up at any of his six siblings’ place. Instead he only wanted to be at home with his mother. After returning to Semporna he took us out to Kunak in January and to Tawau during the Chinese New Year holiday,” she said.
Asked whether she has been to the place where the incident occurred, Siti Bandorah replied; previously I had been there to visit the family but after the incident I have no heart to go there.
“I only pass the road there…I won’t even look at the houses there”.
She admitted that she is not emotionally strong to see the place where her husband lost his life.
She said her youngest Mohammad Aiman Hakimi is the one who always asks about the father and he wants to become a commando like his father.
Her second child, Nurul Liyana still appeared depressed thinking of her father and only uttered: “It is so quiet without my father around, it would have been better if he was here.
The late Abd Azis, from the 14th Battalion of the General Operations Force based in Semporna, has been with the force since 1990. He leaves behind wife Siti Bandorah and four children – Mohd Faridzulhelmy, 19; Nurul Liyana, 16; Nurul Syazwani, 13, and Mohammad Aiman Hakimi, 9. Abd Azis was buried at the Muslim Cemetery in Batu 2, Jalan Bunga Raya, here.
THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN REPLACE MY HUSBAND
Meanwhile, Marlina Utan the widow of Corporal Salam Togiran also shared her sorrow as she had ended up as a widow at a young age.
“Each time when I had to state that I’m a widow when filling up forms, I will cry, guess I’m fated to be a widow,” she said.
Marlina, 39, from Sandakan noted that if she was allowed to choose between her husband and the compensation that she received, she would still go for her husband as there is nothing that could replace him.
Looking back on the unfortunate events that unfolded on that fateful day, Marlina said Salam was called to report for duty in Semporna after completing a 10-day operation in Lahad Datu. Her husband’s words that he is ready to die like the two VAT 69 personnel who died in an earlier ambush in Lahad Datu still reverberates in her ears.
“When he was leaving, he did not want to see my face and appeared heavy hearted, I had to go after him. Then he asked me to take care of the children and hugged us all,” she said when met by BERNAMA at her home in Taman Bandar Sri Indah, Tawau.
THE FINAL MOMENTS FOR SALAM
“On Saturday evening (March 2), he called me asking me to pray for his safety as he will be going to a black area. I felt surprised as he has always been brave, and asked him to be careful as the family is waiting for him back home,” she said.
“At the night of the incident I was attending prayers at a mosque.
At 8 p.m., I told us that gunfight had broke out in Semporna. My gut feelings told me that has to be the place where my husband was in,” she said adding that she wailed after hearing that her husband was killed.
Marlina still has the last SMS sent by her husband that says ‘Alhamdulilllah sihat’ (Thank God, I’m fine) and the bloody incident in Simunul has left bad memories.
Moreover, she did not get a last look of her husband’s face as she was advised against doing so by the senior police officers and the doctor who conducted the post mortem.
She said to the writer that she visits her husband’s grave in Batu 16 Muslim Cemetery every Friday and during the children’s birthdays.
STILL MISSING THE FATHER
“Over the last one year, the youngest one will always ask about the father and watch the father’s video on the phone. We really miss him. I’ m resigned to the fact that my husband is no longer there and hope that the children will do well in their studies,” she said adding that she is in contact with the other widows of the Simunul incident especially Siti Bandorah.
The late Salam hailed from Sandakan and was attached to the Tawau Special Branch. He leaves behind wife Marlina and four children Mohd Sazreen, 16; Mohd Azizie, 14; Umie Alia Aulia, 12, and Umie Amira Umairah, two and a half years old.
Abd Azis and Salam were posthumously promoted as Sargent Major and Sergeant respectively. The other fallen heroes of Kampung Siminul incident are the late Supt Ibrahim Lebar, 52, Lans Koperal Mohd Azrul Tukiran, 27, Supt Micheal Padel, 36, and Sargeant Baharin Hamid, 49.
May their soul rest in peace. Al-FATIHAH. — BERNAMA