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March 27, 2013

A Sad Ending to the Invasion

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – They really don’t know where they came from. Or why. The villagers came ashore and moved into a kampung in Sabah, on the northeast coast of Malaysian Borneo Island.


They spoke several different island dialects. They were from the Philippines; but national boundaries don’t mean much to a people who travel from island to island usually unimpeded selling fish and jungle products.


Malaysian police and security forces spent several days trying to persuade them to go home. The Philippine prime minister sent a boat to pick them up. They wouldn’t leave. The flash point came when Malaysian forces ran into a group of them and shots were fired. Both sides suffered casualties.


The soldiers went into the kampung to clear them out. More people were killed and many more were arrested. The invaders, I really don’t know what else to call them, were egged on by a deranged individual, who states he is the direct descendant of the Sultan who lost his “kingdom” 10 or 12 or 15 decades ago. He is one of five or six who also claim the birthright.


During the preliminary hearing, one 66-year-old man didn’t know why he was being charged. Another one said he was paid to come and settle down in the area. Found on their bodies, both dead and alive, were amulets believed to make them invulnerable to bullets.


They also had prediction cards from the Malay book of geomancy, the Tajul Muluk. Among many other things, my mother-in-law will not allow me to face my cooking kitchen on the porch to the west because it is written. Only she can’t read, so it is handed down through oral history. She says these rules come from the same book.


She said, in translation through my wife, that the west is very hot, emotion wise, and this heat will make life miserable for us. And that we cannot cook facing Mecca. Here, the closest distance to Mecca is west. My kitchen will now face south even though the western wall is the perfect place for it. I know you understand why.


To make matters even more bizarre, if that is possible, the bodies of the invaders that were quickly buried decomposed in less than a day. That’s fast even for the tropics. This only added credence to the mystical forces behind the amulet wearing and card bearing uneducated group who left home for a new land, thought theirs were from an ancient time and protected them from bullets. In fact, the crazy brother (must run in the family) of the Sultan was there as a leader to fight on for their land guaranteed to them in perpetuity by forces that only Spock could have understood.


One thing it wasn’t was an Islamic-backed and funded attempts to destabilize the region as claimed by one web site. The author, one Tony Cartolucci, on his blog stated the invasion, if you can call it that, was backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. For one thing, I sincerely doubt the U.S. State Department even knows where Sabah or Sulu are given their abysmal track record. Ditto Saudi Arabia.


Another opinion states the people were heavily armed bent on starting a revolution in Borneo. Heavily armed is a matter of perspective. People throughout the region carry rifles to shoot animals in the forests to eat. It is not unusual to find gun toting natives even here in Sarawak. Did they fire foolishly believing that bullets would not harm them? Probably.


The end has come now to this tragic farce which sadly resulted in loss of life and many wounded. The Malaysian government did all they could to dispel the mysticism that had a hold on these people including flying jet fighters low over the area and fired rounds of mortars to show whose power was greater.


They tried to negotiate for more than 10 days to find a peaceful solution. But when shots are fired, and you take casualties, there is no choice but to evict the scoundrels.


 . . . . life is good…


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