MANILA: Malaysian security forces are now facing battle-tested, Malaysian-trained commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF),
who know Sabah like the palm of their hands.
Hadji Acmad Bayam, former chief propagandist of the MNLF, revealed this yesterday to the Manila Bulletin, adding that these MNLF forces may have at their disposal a huge arsenal, which they hid deep in Sabah’s rugged terrain when they returned to the Philippines after their rigid training.
Among the firearms are Belgian-made G1 and FAL, which the late Libya leader Colonel Moammar Gadaffi supplied through Malaysia.
Bayam said he was confident the Malaysian authorities were not able to find the hidden MNLF firearms because they were kept very well by the MNLF commanders who stayed behind in Sabah.
During that training, Malaysian military trainers even joked about the firearms at the MNLF training camp on Jampiras Island, off Sabah, as they turned over Gadaffi’s weapons’ supply.
“We are not even sure if the firearms we are giving you will not be turned against,” the Malaysian trainers had said in a jest.
“Well, speaking of self-fulfilling prophecy,” Bayam said, recalling the jokes of the Malaysian trainers.
Now, Filipinos in Sabah, who are not part of the forces of the Sultanate of Sulu, have already joined the fighting in reaction to what they perceived as Malaysian “atrocities” for killing Imam Maas and his four sons at 7:50 p.m. Saturday.
He recalled that Malaysia’s leadership had even suspected the then chief minister of Sabah, Tun Mustapha, a Tausug from Sulu, of “conspiring” with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari to secede the oil-rich island.
“You know, if Mindanao is to Manila, Sabah is to Kuala Lumpur,” said Bayam, explaining that Mindanao and Sabah are the “milking cows” of the Philippines and Malaysia, respectively, for their rich natural resources.
Bayam, who yielded to then President Fidel V. Ramos, stayed in Sabah, Malaysia, for nine years before the peace talks with the Ramos administration in 1993.
Bayam stayed in Sabah on-and-off, in 1976-79, in 1980-1986, among other dates.
Breaching the blockades
Further, he said many of the seasoned rebel commanders and rank-and-file members chose to remain on Sabah island to live there.
Majority of them are from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Peninsula, but there are also Maguindanaons, Iranons, and probably Maranaos, he said.
A few days ago, he said one of the MNLF foreign-trained commanders belonging to the Top 90 Batch, told him that he was enlisting Tausug warriors and others for reinforcement to the Royal Security Force (RSF) of the Sultanate of Sulu.
“I was trying to contact him yesterday but his phone cannot be reached anymore. I guess he was able to penetrate the Malaysian and Philippine sea-borne blockades in their respective borders.
Bayam described the commander “as soft-spoken but firm and true leader-fighter in actual shooting war.” However, he requested that the commander’s name be not made public.
Last Sunday, Abraham J Idjirani, spokesman of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said 40 people from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga Peninsula breached the blockades and reached Lahad Datu, Sabah, scene of the standoff that erupted into a firefight.
He said there are many others who are now trying to go to Sabah and help the sultan’s followers led by Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.
Bayam said that with the way the situation in Sabah is going on, he sees no turning back.