Mr Prime Minister, who were these covert enemies?

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"Don't believe in rumours."

- Inspector-general of police Ismail Omar, during the Lahad Datu crisis.

In a blog post two days ago, the prime minister made an extraordinary claim. I am not talking about his claims about Malaysia's ranking in the corruption perception index or his claims that there were individuals spreading lies about the country in the hopes of destabilising this land of ours.

What I am referring to is the prime minister’s claims that there were covert operatives who relayed information to the nation’s enemies which resulted in the deaths of security personnel. I am talking about this passage specifically:

"We can still remember the incident in Lahad Datu where security forces personnel were sacrificed because there were covert enemies. At that time, the intruders had obtained prior information on the movements of our security forces and ambushed our soldiers in a house."

What some people remember is when the Lahad Datu incident first started, the state attempted to downplay the incident. Indeed, the prime minister at first attempted to negotiate with the rebel army in the hope of a peaceful settlement. Then home minister Hishammuddin Hussein even claimed they were “malnourished and elderly men in sarongs and slippers, and mostly unarmed”, as a means, I suppose, of reassuring the public.

Remember that geopolitics makes strange reading, and as correctly reported - “The Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines was issuing cheques for RM5,300 to the legal counsel of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu in keeping with the terms of a 1887 agreement. While Malaysia considered it as annual cession payment for the disputed state, the sultan’s descendants considered it as ‘rent’. Many then urged the Malaysian government to reduce or stop the cession payment altogether, including former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and opposition lawyer Karpal Singh.”

When the situation escalated, there were the usual reports of atrocities such as beheadings and mutilations, which prompted the state security apparatus to dismiss them and the usual rejoinders not to believe anything on social media.

While I was inundated with phone calls from current and retired serving security personnel during the time of the incursion, I remained sceptical of the information I received but monitored what was reported in the media and the information passed between serving and retired officers on the response by the state. At no time was there any information of leaked intelligence that led to the deaths of our boys....

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