Land grab was unheard of in Sabah before.The pirates were mostly at sea, plundering coastal villages and any sea crafts that they fancy would bring them valuable loots.
Most pirates were from the southern Philippines mainly from the Sulu Archipelago.As a group they are called Suluk but most prefered to be called by the name of their tribes. Be they Bajaus,Illanuns,Tausogs or Ubians their forefathers have indulged in piracy of some sort in the past.Even as recent as the eighties pirate attacks on small coastal villages were not uncommon.
In most islands of the southern Philippines, law and order, doesn't really exist.This is an exclusive zone where the central government has little influence.A murder would be settled with another murder.Justice is at the end of the barrel of a gun or the thin edge of a machete. Manila has no control or the will to enforce the law in many of the islands in the south.Many years of neglect and failure to bring development by the majority Christian government to the mainly Muslim south had excited lawlessness and armed struggle for secession.Those who escaped from the restive and volatile province mostly ended up in Sabah.
A nasty incident at Kunak recently where disputes over ownership of land ended in confrontation with illegal immigrants purportedly employed by a cooperative society who claimed ownership of the land that ended in murders and serious injuries on unarmed smallholders.The smallholders had obtained a court injunction to allow them to enter the land.The land pirates showed no respect for the Court Order and proceeded to attack the smallholders.The confrontation turned to murderous rage when two persons were murdered and scores seriously injured. These are the products of the kind of lawlessness coming from the southern Philippines. They came here as illegals and behaved as if Sabah is part of the southern Philippines, where they can act with impunity. They came across the porous sea border freely, as and when they like, occasionally encouraged and supported by politicians from the area.
Land matters have always been a dicey business in Sabah and a source of quick money.When government opened up new areas and wished to give away thousand of acres to the landless with 15 acres allotted to each applicant, there would be hundreds of applicants.More often than not the land would have been sold to big plantation companies even before the titles were issued to the applicants.The applicants would give 'Power of Attorney' to an agent to sell the land and in many instances they either get cheated or didn't get the amount they were promised.Most land given out to the kampong people ended up this way because they have no intention to till the land in the first place.
In some areas where land were to be given to big companies for cultivation, the kampong people would protest and in some cases put up blockages and make spurious claims of customary rights. In almost all of these type of cases some greedy politicians would be behind it, instigating the people to cause disturbance to try stop the government from alienating the land to big companies because they have special interest in the land themselves.
In the Kunak case, the Chairperson of the Tingkayu Cooperative Land Development Society Limited Hajjah Alima Usman said the cooperative had never hired any illegal immigrants to work for them and also wanted the police to investigate the people who claimed to be smallholders of the land.She also claimed there were two court injunctions issued by the same judge, one on 1 Feb 2008 and subsequently 18 March 2008 that ruled the small holders as trespassers.
I believe the police should also investigate Hajjah Alima Usman and see whether as head of the cooperative she in a party to the deadly attack on the small holders.