The Silent Riot – a documentary on the Sabah Riots of 1986

This blog contains research materials behind the award winning documentary. Directed by Sabahan filmmaker Nadira Ilana, this film is proudly part of Freedom Film Fest Malaysia 2012.

Pom Pom Island incident labelled ‘not urgent’, thrown out

An emergency motion tabled by the opposition to discuss the murder of a Taiwanese couple on Pom Pom island has been rejected by deputy speaker Ronald Kiandee.

The motion brought by Kota Kinabalu MP Jimmy Wong, was rejected on the grounds that the matter is “not urgent”.


The Rappler: Jabidah and Merdeka: The inside story


POSTED ON 03/18/2013 6:29 AM  | UPDATED 03/18/2013 10:19 PM
(Editor’s note: On March 18, 1968 – exactly 45 years ago today – at least 23 Muslim trainees were shot to death on Corregidor Island in what has since been known as the Jabidah massacre. Below is a summary of “In the name of honor?,” the chapter on the Philippine government’s clandestine operation to invade Sabah written by Marites Dañguilan Vitug and Glenda M. Gloria in their book “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao,” which was first published in 2000.)

MANILA, Philippines – As it was a special government operation, details of Oplan Merdeka were known only to a few people. But the general concept was explained to the officers who were involved in it. The Philippines was to train a special commando unit – named Jabidah – that would create havoc in Sabah. The situation would force the Philippine government to either take full control of the island or the residents would by themselves decide to secede from Malaysia. Many Filipinos from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and parts of Mindanao had migrated to Sabah. Oplan Merdeka was banking on this large community to turn the tide in favor of secession.

About 17 men, mostly recruits from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, entered Sabah as forest rangers, mailmen, police. The Filipino agents blended into Sabah’s communities. Their main task was to use psychological warfare to indoctrinate and convince the large number of Filipinos residing in Sabah to secede from Malaysia and be part of the Philippines. Part of their job was to organize communities which would support secession and be their allies when the invasion took place. They also needed to reconnoiter the area and study possible landing points for airplanes and docking sites for boats.

The project did not exactly start from ground zero. Even before then Army Maj Eduardo Martelino sent his men to Sabah, Philippine armed forces intelligence was already eavesdropping on the island. In the early 1960s, there was concern over the possibility that a Pan-Islamic movement financed by Libya’s Muammar Qadaffi would reach the southern Philippines.

Martelino himself went to Sabah 3 times on secret missions as head of the Jabidah forces, he would reveal in a newspaper interview on Aug 1, 1968. The landing points he used were Tambisan Point, Lahad Datu, and Semporna. Some of his men traveled on one of the 50 or more fast-moving fishing boats owned by big-time smuggler Lino Bocalan. They frequently travelled from Cavite to Sabah, where they loaded thousands of cases of “blue-seal” cigarettes. At that time, imported cigarettes were not allowed into the Philippines.

Bocalan, only 31 then, was already a millionaire. In his coastal home in Cavite in 1998, Bocalan admitted: “Marcos told me he needed help for Sabah. My duty was to finance the operation. I spent millions (of pesos)… I fed the Filipino trainees in Sabah, paid their salaries. I sent my brother and my people to Tawi-Tawi and Corregidor to give food and money (to the recruits.).”

Malaysia seemed an easy and vulnerable target at that time. The Federation was still new and fragile, having come into being only in 1963. Ferdinand Marcos cast his covetous eyes on a country that was still on its way to political cohesion.

On the ground, though, trade relations between Mindanao and Sabah picked up. Traders made regular clandestine visits and their business was classified as “smuggling.” Feeling the need to reduce smuggling in that zone, the government looked for a special operations officer to map out an anti-smuggling campaign plan.

Thus, all 3 factors converged and became the context as well as backdrop for Oplan Merdeka: the fear of a Pan-Islamic movement creeping into Mindanao, a vulnerable Federation of Malaysia, and an anti-smuggling operation.

FAILED DREAMS. This is where a Jabidah recruit, Ernesto Sambas, continues to live in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi. Photo by Karlos ManlupigFAILED DREAMS. This is where a Jabidah recruit, Ernesto Sambas, continues to live in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Simunul training

The training of recruits from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi was done in Simunul, a picturesque island-town of Tawi-Tawi (Read: Jabidah recruits plotted Sabah standoff). From August to December 1967, Martelino, assisted by then Lt Eduardo Batalla, set up camp and trained close to 200 men – Tausugs and Sama (the dominant ethnic tribe in Tawi-Tawi) aged 18 to about 30. A number of them had had experience in smuggling and sailing the kumpit, a wooden boat commonly used in the area. What enticed the young men to Martelino’s escapade was the promise of being part of an elite unit in the Armed Forces. It was not just an ordinary job. It gave them legitimate reason to carry guns – carbines and Thompson submachine guns. It gave them a sense of power.

Camp Sophia, named after Martelino’s second wife, a young, naive, and pretty Muslim, was inside a coconut plantation, fenced by barbed wire. A hut housed a powerful transceiver and served as a radio room. Bunks were made of ipil-ipil and makeshift twigs. A watchtower stood tall in the perimeter, facing the sea. It was a world of their own making, with the trainees wearing distinct badges showing crossbones and a black skull with a drip of blood on the forehead. Their rings were engraved with skull and crossbones.

Today, no trace remains of a military camp in Simunul, not a single marker. What was once Camp Sophia now looks deserted, planted to palm and coconut trees with wild grass.

Bound for Corregidor

On Dec 30, 1967, anywhere from 135 (the late Sen Ninoy Aquino’s count) to 180 (former Capt Cirilo Oropesa’s count) recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel in Simunul bound for Corregidor, a tadpole-shaped island guarding the mouth of Manila Bay. For two days and one night, the troops sailed from the southernmost tip of the Philippines to Corregidor. They spent the New Year at sea and reached the island off Cavite on Jan 3, 1968.

Corregidor was the last bastion of Filipino-American resistance against invading Japanese forces. It was the site of many deaths and some describe its history as written in blood. Today, it is a tourist destination, with the ruins of battle well preserved.

However, Jabidah is never mentioned as part of Corregidor’s storied past. The hospital turned military barracks and the airstrip where the killings took place are not included in the routine tour. But graffiti of trainees’ and trainers’ names, places (“all from Sulu,” “Siasi market site,” “Tapul, Sulu”) and one memorable date – “Jan. 3/68,” when they arrived in Corregidor – bear witness to Corregidor’s connection to another island.

Before the recruits docked in Corregidor, the old Corregidor hospital was cordoned off and declared a restricted area. It was to be the military barracks. The trainees were to stay inside the bombed-out hospital on the topside of the island, the highest point on Corregidor, surrounded by trees and bushes.

Once on the island, the trainees were ordered to cut the trees surrounding the camp. They were taught to dig foxholes and use parachutes. They kept a rigid schedule, and were up at 5 o’clock in the morning for a two-hour jog followed by drills. Lectures took place in the afternoons.

Ernesto Sambas, a recruit from Tawi-Tawi, recalls seeing many other soldiers on Corregidor, but their batch from Simunul was confined to one area on the island. It appears that there was discrimination against the Tausug trainees. Sambas said he got his pay but those from Sulu did not. As a commissioned officer, Sambas also noticed the growing restlessness among other Muslim youths. The recruits were getting impatient because they couldn’t send a single centavo back home. Their promised pay of P50 a month was never given. The officers were aware of the agitation among the recruits. They knew that it was just a matter of time before mutiny erupted.

As a precautionary measure, then Lt Rolando Abadilla and the rest took shifts guarding their own barracks at night. Sambas remembers that they sent at least 16 of the Muslims back to Sulu because they were always complaining.

By the fourth week of February 1968, some of the trainees started to get restless. Since their arrival in Corregidor, they had not been paid a single centavo. Their food was miserable. They slept on ipil wood and cots. Meanwhile, their officers pampered themselves in comfortable, air-conditioned rooms at the Bayview Hotel, across the Manila Bay, a short boat trip from Corregidor.

REMEMBRANCE. Graffiti that reminds tourists of the gruesome killings in 1968. Photo by Angela CasauayREMEMBRANCE. Graffiti that reminds tourists of the gruesome killings in 1968. Photo by Angela Casauay

Sent packing

The trainees decided to complain and secretly wrote a petition addressed to President Marcos, signed by about 62 trainees. Others placed their thumb marks. They wanted their pay plus an improvement in their living conditions. Martelino visited the trainees and assured them of their pay. He later met with the 4 leaders of the petitioning group. To this day, 3 of them remain unaccounted for.

After this, the trainees were given fiesta food: goat, beef, and Nescafe coffee with milk. Almost every night there was music and dancing. But with the good food and entertainment came the bad news: the rest of the signatories of the petition were disarmed. Effective March 1, 1968, all 58 of them were considered resigned.

Some 60 to 70 trainees, meanwhile, were transferred to Camp Capinpin in Rizal. On March 16, another batch was taken away from Corregidor. These 24 men boarded the same boat that had brought them to Corregidor in the New year. Then Sen Ninoy Aquino, who led a Senate probe on the issue, later met this batch in Jolo when he did his own sleuthing in March.

On March 18, another 12 recruits were told to prepare for home. At 2 am, they left camp. These men, till today, are unaccounted for. Soon after, on the same day, another batch of 12 was told that they were going to leave at 4 am. Why a dozen per batch? Because the plane, they were told, could carry only 12 passengers. Jibin Arula, the most famous of the Jabidah survivors, belonged to this second batch.

Arula’s memory of this day remains vivid: “We went to the airport on a weapons carrier truck, accompanied by 13 (non-Muslim) trainees armed with M-16 and carbines. When we reached the airport, our escorts alighted ahead of us. Then Lt Eduardo Nepomuceno ordered us to get down from the truck and line up [Nepomuceno was later killed in Corregidor under mysterious circumstances]. As we put down our bags, I heard a series of shots. Like dominoes, my colleagues fell. I got scared. I ran and was shot at, in my left thigh. I didn’t know that I was running towards a mountain….By 8 am, I was rescued by two fishermen on Caballo Island, near Cavite.”

A presidential helicopter swooped down on Corregidor shortly after the killings. Officers and men belonging to the Army Special Forces leaped out of the aircraft and engaged in a clandestine cover-up mission to erase traces of the massacre.

When they landed, the teams of soldiers found burned bodies tied to trees, near the airstrip, on the island’s bottom side. The order from Army chief Gen Romeo Espino was to clean up the place and clear it of all debris. From afternoon till sunset, they collected charred flesh and bones and wrapped them in dark colored ponchos. They could not keep track of how many bodies there were. They also picked up bullet shells lying on the airstrip. The trainees had been shot dead before they were tied and burned.

At the crack of dawn the next day, they loaded the ponchos in the helicopter and flew over Manila Bay. They tied heavy stones to the ponchos before dumping them all into the sea. The remains sank, weighed down by the stones. The soldiers made sure nothing floated to the surface.

Major players died

If Marcos and his men were to be believed, the killings on Corregidor never happened. The expose on Jabidah, they said, was part of a grand plot by the opposition to discredit the Marcos regime. They said Arula, a survivor of the massacre, was an agent planted by Malaysia after it had uncovered Jabidah’s purpose.

The Armed Forces top brass never ordered a search for missing persons, living and dead. No real investigation took place, except for a few Senate and Congressional hearings which yielded inconclusive findings. The young and intensely energetic opposition Sen Ninoy Aquino Jr, using his deft journalistic skills, put some of the pieces of the Jabidah puzzle together, but the picture remained incomplete.

Eight officers and 16 enlisted men were court-martialed in 1968. All of them, however, were cleared in 1971. The major actors are by now all dead.

After Jabidah, Abadilla gained notoriety as head of the Military Intelligence Security Group that arrested and killed political activists. In 1996, communist guerrillas shot him dead while his car was held by traffic at a busy intersection along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

Abadilla’s immediate commander in Oplan Merdeka, Eduardo Battalla, had been killed much earlier, in 1989, when he bungled a hostage incident involving a bandit, Rizal Alih. Batalla, then a general, was the regional Constabulary commander in Western Mindanao. (Editor’s note: We earlier said Battala was commander of the military’s Southern Command then. We regret the error.)

Martelino, who executed Merdeka, was reported to have been imprisoned in Sabah in 1973. Martelino returned to Sabah after his acquittal, his daughter Pat Martelino Lon recalls. They believe he is dead, but a few of his former colleagues think he may still be languishing in a Malaysian prison.

Some senior military officers and men talked to us in 1997 and 1998 to fill in the gaps of this story. A number of them participated in the operation as leaders who gave orders or followers who implemented such orders. Others knew or were close to the people who were recruited to Jabidah.

For many soldiers involved in Operation Merdeka, there was nothing wrong with a plot to take back a territory they believe the Philippines owned. Looking back, they say that if not for the bungled training, the killings would not have ensued and Oplan Merdeka would have pushed through.

But the Jabidah massacre tainted the reputation of the military. Those who participated, either in actual training or in the clean-up operations, have not fully come clean. In the end, it may have left a legacy of lying and cover-up. –

‘Filipino pirates wreak havoc in a Malaysian island paradise’ – 30 October 1985

by Masayuki Doi
October 30 1985

The Sydney Morning Herald

LAHAD DATU (Malaysia), Tuesday: Sabah, an east Malaysian state on the north-east coast of Borneo, has unwillingly become a paradise for pirates who raid the state from hide-outs in the nearby Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines.

The instability of the Marcos regime has wreaked havoc on the maintenance of peace in the far south-western islands of the Philippines, the bastion of the anti-Marcos Moro tribesmen.

On September 23, marauders attacked the Malaysian town of Lahad Datu in one of the worst instances in a decade. Tong Chun Fook, 34, an employee of a timber company in the town of 30,000, was injured in the raid.

While walking along a coastal road he saw eight men dressed in combat uniforms and carrying M-16 machineguns run toward the centre of town. He heard gunfire and then saw men running toward him.

Tong hid in a cafe with the proprietor, huddled under a table and listened to gunshots and explosions. The two thought the town was under attack by the Philippine army.

Suddenly, a bullet crashed through a window and hit Tong in the leg. “I saw images of my wife and three children and I thought I would never see them again,” he said.

According to official reports of the two-hour raid, 21 Lahad Datu residents were killed and 11 people, including Tong, were injured.

The reports said about 15 pirates from the Sulu Archipelago made the attack and made off with nearly $100,000 from the local bank, the Malaysian Airline office and other businesses.

As the pirates escaped in high-speed boats, local police gave chase and killed five of them, officials said. “I consider myself fortunate because I lived to see my family. But even so, I cannot help wondering about our government, which can’t sem to defend us against these marauders,” Tong said. Aside from minor forays, Sabah has suffered 10 major attacks since 1976.

The instability in the Philippines has also caused economic problems for the Malaysian state. Philippine army raids against anti-Marcos factions in the Sulu Islands and on Mindanao Island have left houses razed and fields destroyed, forcing an estimated 100,000 people to flee. Many who have not left the Philippine islands have turned to smuggling and armed robbery.

A large slum of Filipino refugees has formed on the outskirts of Lahad Datu.

In the past, when Sabah enjoyed a prosperous timber trade because of a housing boom in Japan, the refugees could often find work transporting timber to loading sites. Now, the timber trade is depressed and work scarce.

The Malaysian Government may have tried to retaliate soon after the Lahad Datu raid, although reports are ambiguous. Philippine army units stationed on nearby Tawitawi Island claimed that the malaysian Army with four ships and three helicopters attacked the island, burning houses and killing 53 citizens.

Malaysia has denied the reports and the governments of the two ASEAN have both hinted that an unnamed third party was responsible for the incident.

Sabah’s Mood Relaxed Despite Dispute, New York Times, Oct 1968

Sabah's Mood Relaxed Despite Dispute_Page_1

Sabah's Mood Relaxed Despite Dispute_Page_2

Sabah’s Mood Relaxed Despite Dispute

by Terence Smith

KOTA KINABALU, Sabah, Oct 5 – While Malaysia and the Philippines exchanged charges in their escalating dispute over Sabah this week, the people of this strikingly beautiful North Borneo state were busy hanging red, white and blue bunting from their windows and building decorative arches over the streets of the capital.

The major event of the week here – territorial disputes notwithstanding – was the public celebration honoring the birthday of chief of state, Ahmad Raffae.

The ceremony took place yesterday morning in high style, complete with brass bands and marching military units and when it was over the people of Sabah relaxed for a long weekend devoted to their favorite pursuits, cock-fighting and card playing.

Had it not been for the glaring newspaper headlines describing the buzzing of Malaysian patrol boats by Philippine planes, there would have been nothing in the festive atmosphere in Kota Kinabalu, formerly Jesselton, to indicate that it was the focal point of an international dispute that has already ruptured relations between the Philippines and Malaysia and is posing a threat to the cause of regionalism in Southeast Asia.

The seeming indifference of the people to this situation of Sulu. The claim was originally presented to the British, to whom the Sultan had ceded Sabah in 1878.

The British Government which had rejected the claim, transferred sovereignty over the area, then known as the crown colony of North Borneo, to the new Federation of Malaysia in 1963. It was supported in this move by a United Nations commission that had conducted a survey in 1962 and determined that the poepl of the colony were overwhelmingly in favor of union with Malaysia. The population is about 600,000.

The issue remained a sensitive one among the Moslems of the Sulu Islands in the southwest Philippines, a few miles from Sabah, but itwas not activated again until last month, when the Philippine Congress approved a bill that asserted “dominion and sovereignty” over Sabah.


President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who is seeking re-election next year and is aware of the political sensitivity of the issue, signed the bill into law. He apparently was determined to convert what had started out as an opposition attempt to embarrass him into a politically profitable maneuver. But he has stressed that he will not use force to uphold the Philippine position.

The Philippine measure incensed the Malaysian Government, which denounced it as an attempt at “verbal annexation.” Kuala Lumpur promptly suspended diplomatic relations with Manila and abrogated an anti-smuggling pact between the two countries.

Since then the argument has grown increasingly bitter, and the prospects of an early and peaceful settlement more remote.

No one expects a full scale war to break out since neither country has the military capacity to mount a major assault on the other. But even in its present state the dispute has ominous implications for newly formed regional organizations such as the promising Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Philippines and Malaysia make up two-fifths of the membership of ASEAN, as it has become known, and if they refuse to deal with each other, the organization’s chances of promoting regional economic cooperation will be dimmed.

Sabah itself is a 29,000 square mile of jungle and mountains on the northern end of the vast island of Borneo. It is rich in timber, rubber, tobacco and minerals, and the South China Sea, which washes its fine sand beaches, teems with shrimp and lobster.

Its residents are comparatively well off. Their average annual income of $310 puts them well above the rest of Southeast Asia, with the exception of their oil-rich independent neighbor, Brunei. Even this may change, since six major oil companies are currently searching for offshore petroleum deposits beneath Sabah’s waters.

The state is enjoying an economic boom that shows every sign of continuing. The boom is based largely on the timber industry, which is getting record prices for its hardwood in Japan and the United States.

In addition, vast deposits of copper have been discovered in the plains east of the 13,500 foot Mount Kinabalu.

The interior of Sabah is a largely inaccessible region unmarked by roads and inhabited by aboriginal tribes.

When the Malaysian Prime Minister, Prince Abdul Rahman visited here last week, he was met at each stop by sizable crowds waving anti-Marcos placards and chanting “To hell with the Philippines.”

The demonstrators were noisy, but they were orchestrated by the Government, and the crowds were made up of mostly children let out of classes for the occasion. The majority of the Sabahans clearly oppose the Philippine territorial claim, but they would be unlikely to take to the streets to shout about it on their own initiative.

One by-product of the current dispute clearly pleases them, however- the abrogation of the antismuggling pact.

The presence of the Filipino customs agents who were stationed here under the year-old agreement had been cutting sharply into the prosperous business of running Chinese-manufactured consumer goods across the Sulu Sea to the Philippines. Before the agents arrived, the smuggling was said to be worth 25-million Malaysian dollars (about $8.33 million) a year. Now that they are gone, this business presumably will soon be back to normal.

Talks on Sabah Facing Obstacle, New York Times, 25 October 1964

Talks on Sabah Facing Obstacles

Use of World Court Divides Philippines and Malaysia

by Seth S. King
Special to The New York Times

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct 24 – New misunderstandings have stalled the latest effort to settle the Philippine claim to North Borneo.

Talks between Malaysian and Philippine legal teams were scheduled to begin Monday in Bangkok, Thailand, but clauses in a Philippine note on arrangements for the talks have raised a question that will force a postponement and may prevent the talks from being held at all.

Under the name Sabah, North Borneo was incorporated in the federation of Malaysia on its formation the summer of 1963.

Malaysia object to a Philippine (interference) that if the legal teams fail to agree on any other method at Bangkok the issue will automatically be placed before the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

While the Malaysians have not ruled out the possibility of placing the claim eventually before the Court, they regard this as a last resort of questionable value.

The Philippines has insisted that part of Sabah was owned by the Sultan of Sulu, a Filipino. According to this version the Sultan leased these lands to the British North Borneo Company in 1878 and sovereignty over them actually reside in the Philippines.


Pending a settlement of the claim, the Philippines has refused full diplomatic recognition of the federation, which embraces Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore in addition to Sabah.

It was Malaysia that proposed the Bangkok talks, and Malaysian officials understood them to be entirely exploratory.

Neither side was to be committed beforehand to a course of action.
But the Philippines note on final arrangements for talks contained the following statement:
“The Philippines therefore proposes that in the event of an inability to reach agreement on the points of clarification desired by Malaysia, the two governments agree to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice as a token of their mutual adherence to the rules of law and their compliance with the United Nations charter.

“Subject to this express understanding, the Philippine Government will be ready to enter into talks with Malaysia on points to be clarified.”
On Tuesday the matter became further complicated when the Philippine delegate to the United Nations, Dr Salvador P. Lopez, said that his country would take the matter before the General Assembly if the talks did not begin next week.

Malaysian officials say they are confident that there is no legal basis for the Philippine claim and that it would get nowhere in the World Court. But they are reluctant to agree to go to the Court, which might take two or three years to reach a decision.”

Manila Asserts Rights to Sabah, New York Times 1968

Manila Asserts Rights to Sabah, New York Times, 19 November 1968



New Law Declares State is Part of Philippines

Special to The New York Times

MANILA, Sept 18 – President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed into law today a controversial measure declaring Malaysian Sabah to be within the territory of the Philippines.

He stressed in a statement, however, that the Philippines would pursue her territorial claim by peaceful means. The statement called attention to the constitutional provision that renounces war as an instrument of national policy.

President Marcos signed the measure after the bipartisan Foreign Policy Council endorsed it in a meeting at the Presidential Palace this morning.

“In signing the measure,” the presidential statement said, “I have ascertained that the text and intent of the statute do not contemplate the physical incorporation of Sabah into the national territory. Section 2 of the bill simply restates the Philippines’ long-held position that she acquired dominion over Sabah by virtue of a series of documentas and agreements.

The key part of the new law states: “The definition of the baselines of the territorial sea is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around Sabah, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.”


Foreign Secretary Narciso Ramos, who leaves tomorrow for New York as head of the Philippine delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, was instructed to carry copies of the new law for filing with the United Nations.

The world body has asked the Philippine Government earlier to define its territorial limits.

In compliance with the United Nations request, the Philippine Senate last month passed a bill setting forth the traditional territorial limits of the country.

When the Philippine-Malaysia talks in Bangkok, Thailand collapsed in July, Congressman Carmelo Berbero inserted the provision including Sabah into the bill, which was then under consideration in the House. The amended version was passed.

The North Borneo state of Sabah has an area of little more than 29,000 square miles, somewhat smaller than South Carolina.

The sultans of Brunei and Sulu ceded it to a British syndicate in 1878. In 1946 it was transferred to the British crown and in 1963 became a state in the new Federation of Malaysia.

The Philippines, which includes the remainder of the old Sulu sultanate, laid claim to Sabah after it joined the federation.”

Filipino Men Trained to Infilitrate Sabah, New York Times, 1968

Filipino Testifies Base Trained Men for Infiltration Into Sabah, New York Times, 27 March 1968

Filipino Men trained to infiltrate Sabah


The Jabidah Massacre also known as the Corregidor Massacre, is widely thought to be the catalyst behind Moro insurgencies in Mindanao –

The Easiest Suction Berjaya Ever Fought

Raman, N.V. The Easiest Suction Berjaya Ever Fought, The Star, 30 March 1981

The Easiest Election Berjaya Ever Fought. The Star. 30 March 1981.

Sabah Dispute Continues to Simmer in Malaysia, New York Times, November 1968

Sabah Dispute Continues to Simmer in Malaysia, New York Times, 18 November 1968

Sabah Dispute Continues to Simmer in Malaysia, New York Times, 18 November 1968

Winning short film sheds light on Sabah’s citizenship-for-votes caper

The Malaysian Insider

FEBRUARY 21, 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — A chance conversation with her father about his youth set Nadira Ilana on her path to shoot “Silent Riot” — a short film about the 1986 Sabah riots.

She was born just a year after her Kota Kinabalu hometown in Sabah was paralysed by riots and fish bombs that followed the 1985 state elections.

Nadira took a month to put together the story for her documentary. — Picture courtesy of“I was asking my father what things were like when he was my age,” said the young film-maker in the Singapore Straits Times. “I remember his words: ‘I bet you never heard of the time Sabah had two chief ministers’.”

She hadn’t but it took her a month to put together the story by talking to people who remembered.

Then, the 25-year-old read about the Freedom Film Festival by a human rights group.

Her 30-minute documentary “Silent Riot” won a top prize in the film festival last year, and became an instant hit for shedding light on events that had preceded the alleged citizenship-for-votes plot that is now dominating the headlines.

The “Project IC” plot was said to be the cause of a massive influx of immigrants who now make up one-quarter of Sabah’s residents, with Muslims outnumbering the once-dominant Christian native population.

The issue has simmered but is now the hottest topic of debate in Sabah after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak set up a royal commission of inquiry to probe the matter last year.

The hearings resume this week but the events that led to this Project IC are a mystery to many.

“Very few of us knew about the riots,” said Universiti Malaya law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom, who was a judge in the film festival. “But it’s important that we know. A lot of things that are happening in Malaysia, we tend to see out of context because we don’t have a context. Or we have the context provided by one side only.”

Azmi said Malaysians are coming to realise they have an incomplete view of their own history, leading many to fill the gaps through efforts such as “Silent Riot”.

The 1985 Sabah election saw then-opposition Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which represents the Christian Kadazandusun community, winning most of the seats in the state assembly. PBS is now in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

But the other contenders also claimed victory, resulting in two chief ministers being sworn in. Fish bombs went off in Kota Kinabalu and other towns and demonstrations broke out. Protesters were believed to be illegal immigrants from south Philippines.

More than 1,700 people were arrested, five died and a curfew was imposed for a month.

While many have forgotten about the riots, Nadira and many others believe that it was the background to the alleged Project IC.

They believe Muslim immigrants were made citizens in exchange for their political support.

“The cost was Sabah’s democracy, security and the state’s overall dignity,” Nadira said.

Post Navigation