Tanjung Batu villagers building new life | New Straits Times

LAHAD DATU: In the morning of Mar 5 in 2013, Kampung Tanjung Batu villagers were going about their business when words about Filipino gunmen entering the coastal village reached them.

It triggered panic as villagers packed their belongings in a huff and fled their homes – some in vehicles and others on foot.

For more than three weeks before that, they knew of the presence of the armed intruders who landed in the nearby Kampung Tanduo – staking their claim on Sabah – and a growing arsenal brought in by the Malaysian security forces in response to the threat.

Edie Ahmad Abdul, 50, recalled leaving behind their belongings and taking only important documents when he and his family fled the village.

“Apart from the document, we were left only with clothes on our back. It was one of the moments many of us will never forget. It was very tense because everyone was busy moving and we fled to Dewan Fajar Harapan to seek refuge.

“We did not take other belongings because we were afraid of the gunmen. We arrived at the hall safely and we sought shelter there,” Edie told Harian Metro when met at his home in Tanjung Batu.

Like other families who were affected by the 2013 intrusion, Edie along with his wife and six children stayed at the Dewan Fajar Harapan – one of the evacuation centres – for a month.

Edie, who worked as a farmer, said his home was used by gunmen, loyal followers of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, as their shelter after Malaysian security forces launched an offensive at Kampung Tanduo.

He added many houses in Tanjung Batu were destroyed following gunfight between Malaysian security forces and Kiram followers. Some of the houses were also torched.

“After a month staying at the evacuation centre, we were allowed to return home when Tanjung Batu was declared safe. Our house was no longer there. It was destroyed with only some pillars still standing,” he said.

In 2015, Edie’s family received government assistance to build a new house on the same site and they are now living comfortably with tight security in the coastal village.

Once a destroyed village, Tanjung Batu has been transformed with new homes built in an organised manner.

Another resident Edris Abd Kahar, 55, said his house was riddled with bullet holes on the wall and roof.

“Alhamdulilah, with assistance from the government I was able to repair the damage. However, I had to spend a little on getting new appliances for the house and clothes,” he said.

During the conflict, Edris and his wife along with their eight children sought shelter at the Fajar Harapan evacuation centre.

Although they still think of the event, Edris said the villagers were now living in peace with security forces conducting daily patrol to restore confidence among the people.

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