By Nashir Mansor
KOTA KINABALU, (March 6) — The intrusion episode involving an armed
group claiming to be from the Royal Sulu Force in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu on
Feb 12, 2013 added another dark chapter in the nation’s history with 10 security
personnel and 73 of the intruders killed.
The intrusion seemed to be a rude awakening for Malaysians as it is the
first time since the Emergency that ended more than four decades ago, the
country had to mobilise its security assets and personnel to take on the
nation’s new enemy.
The armed men from South Philippines were sent by Jamalul Kiram III, who
claimed that he is the Sultan of Sulu, to reclaim Sabah.
Since a year has passed, BERNAMA talked to Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk
Hamza Taib, the man who played a critical role from the start of the intrusion
and till the end of ‘Ops Daulat’, on his experience and the lessons learnt from
this dark chapter.
BERNAMA: The Lahad Datu intrusion chapter is a grim reminder on how
vulnerable the country is to external threats. What is the experience and
lessons learnt by the members of the security forces especially the Royal
Malaysian Police from this episode?
DATUK HAMZA: The incident has provided a valuable lesson for the members of
the security forces. We have to be ever ready and vigilant in preserving the
nation’s, sovereignty. Therefore, we have to keep improving our capabilities,
including in intelligence gathering and on how to react in times of crisis.
BERNAMA: The Lahat Datu episode also showed the capabilities of our security
forces in defeating the enemies. Datuk, does this episode sends a clear message
to those who plan to commit any act of terrorism or aggression against the
country in future?
DATUK HAMZA: We have indirectly sent a clear message to the intruders that
“We take this matter seriously”. That is why when negotiations failed we took
drastic action using every weapon in our arsenal – heavy artillery, aerial
bombardment, cannons and etc. So we have sent a clear message; “Don’t play the
fool with us. We will defend the sovereignty of our nation no matter what it
BERNAMA: Datuk what is your opinion on the support shown by the locals when
the security personnel took on the enemies at Lahat Datu?
DATUK HAMZA: The support from the locals was good. Though there were rumours
that locals of Philippine and Suluk origin were in cahoots with the intruders
but intelligence gathered indicated otherwise.
Their support can be seen from the information provided to the authorities
including by those of Suluk origin. They were unhappy with their counterpart’s
action as they have settled down in Sabah peacefully for quite some time now.
The locals in fact provided us a morale boost in many ways. During the Ops
Daulat, we saw many coming forth contributing mineral water and food for our
personnel manning road blocks and this was helpful. When I held dialogues with
local communities and associations, they passed around the hat. They said this
is for everyone. Though the donation is not much, RM300 only, their sincerity
and appreciation was welcoming. They had placed all their hopes on the security
forces to end the intrusion. I also received many words of encouragement through
SMS, WHATSAPP, EMAIL. Many said “we are doing a good job” in defending Sabah.
The support gave a morale boost and confidence for the security forces in
taking on the enemies. I also thank Allah for helping me to go through the
difficult time and in ensuring the success of our undertaking.
BERNAMA: Datuk, in your opinion what is the most valuable lesson that locals
could learn from this intrusion?
DATUK HAMZA: Those who have settled here have to accept that Sabah is their
home. Though their ancestors might have originated from across the sea, once
they have become Malaysians they have to show undivided loyalty. It means we
have to defend this state together from any external aggression.
BERNAMA: The diplomatic aspect too played an important role in bringing the
Lahat Datu episode to an end. Can Datuk elaborate on this?
DATUK HAMZA: We also made use of diplomacy where we contacted the
Philippines government through Wisma Putra to help us persuade the intruders to
BERNAMA: After the intrusion episode ended, the security forces have taken
numerous steps to prevent such incident from recurring. Does this mean the
security level at Sabah’s east coast is much better now?
DATUK HAMZA: In fact, the police have been doing a good job in maintaining
the security in Sabah all this while despite some minor security breaches. The
Lahat Datu incident is also a blessing in disguise, as it opened the doors for
greater improvements in security management including the setting up of the
Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE), apart from the Eastern Sabah Security
Command (ESSCOM). The government also agreed to establish another General
Operations Force brigade and another armed forces brigade in Sabah.
All these are the efforts taken by the government to maintain security in
Sabah’s east coast.
BERNAMA: Datuk you had served in Pahang for 15 years and had faced the
Communist threat, how do you compare the Lahad Datu invaders with the Communist
DATUK HAMZA: I’m familiar with the atrocities committed by the Communist in
the past but when reporters ask me now, I say that “do you know the Sulu people
in the intrusion episode were more brutal then the Communists”. And when they
ask me how can you say that, I say “… because I was there”. I have seen
policemen and civil servants shot dead by the Communists, but they only shot and
killed them and did not dismember their bodies like what the Sulu invaders did.
BERNAMA: Datuk, is the Lahad Datu episode something that you will never
DATUK HAMZA: The Lahad Datu episode is something that I will never forget.
Firstly it happened during my tenure as the Sabah Police Commissioner and
secondly I was the commander of the ‘Ops Daulat’ launched to take on the enemy.
I was involved right from the first day they landed in Tanduo, in cordoning
them, working out strategies and gathering intelligence, conduct negotiations
and start operations to get rid of them. We shot dead 73 enemies, caught more
than 500 people and charged 31 persons under Security Offences (Special
Measures) Act (Sosma).
So how am I to forget all this and what more during the operations eight of
my men and two military personnel were killed. Two of the policemen died in
Tanduo and six more in Simunul, Semporna. Each time I recall this episode, my
heart grieves. I’m sad for the fate that befell my men and I will never forget
the episode for the rest of my life (Hamza was overcome by emotions at this
BERNAMA: The experience of the security personnel from the Lahat Datu crisis
has to be shared with others for the benefit of the future generations. What is
your view on this Datuk?
DATUK HAMZA: In fact, I was ordered by the previous Inspector General of
Police to document the Lahad Datu episode. The archive division at Bukit Aman
has taken efforts to document the incident right from the first hand experience
of the personnel involved to the SOP used. My officers have been called by the
police training centres to provide talks on the Lahad Datu intrusion.
BERNAMA: Can Datuk comment on the ‘Pingat Kedaulatan Negara’ awarded to the
security personnel involved in the Lahat Datu incident?
DATUK HAMZA: I’m grateful that the government and the police top brass for
giving recognition to the sacrifices of the force members. In fact the Sabah
Police Commissioner’s post had been upgraded from two to three stars. Some
received medal, letter of commendation and even monetary award. To me this
recognition is necessary as defending a nation calls for greater resilience and
sacrifices of the security force members.
Not everyone can face such situations. I too have to control my emotions as
many officers and personnel are under me. Apart from that, I’m not seeing from
the Lahad Datu perspective alone, but in the bigger picture the well-being of
whole of Sabah.
BERNAMA: Datuk how does it feel to be honoured with the ‘Tokoh Maulidul
Rasul’ award at the national level and to receive the ‘Anugerah Khas Maulidul
Rasul’ at the state level. What does these awards mean to Datuk?
DATUK HAMZA: As for me this award is not for myself only. The award serves
as the government’s recognition for the police force. Moreover, hitherto the
police has yet receive such award. The police did not nominate me for the award.
It is the Sabah State Government that nominated me for the national level award.
This is an honour for the police force. That is why when I went to receive the
award in the police uniform. I went there not on an individual capacity but as a
representative of the force. So everyone knows the one who received the great
recognition is the Royal Malaysian Police.
Hamza, who joined the force on Nov 16, 1975 as a probationary inspector, is
the father of four children – three daughters and a son. Hamza has served the
force for 38 years and when he retires at 60 in three years time he would have
served for 41 years. — BERNAMA