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Lahad Datu: Ultimately It Is About the Rakyat Feeling Safe

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The stand-off at Lahad Datu, which turned to bloodshed Friday, has never been about our national security or sovereignty. The intruders from Sulu don't have the support of the Philippines Government and pose no genuine threat to our police or armed forces, which have had them surrounded since early February.

But as gunfire erupted on Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Naiib Razak gave the police a mandate to "take any action deemed necessary". And he did so not just because our troops have now been killed, but because the people of the area no longer feel safe after the stand-off turned nasty.

The town of Lahad Datu was deserted as families locked themselves inside their homes. There had been no curfew order issued by police, but amid the uncertainty, few people were taking chances. They had heard the intruders from Sulu were roaming the streets and fear quickly spread.

And this is another reason why this odd incursion must now end. Whatever the risk to the civilian population, the rakyat has the right to feel safe – anywhere in Malaysia and at any time. That doesn't just mean a family hiding inside their home in Lahad Datu; it also means a shopkeeper from KL rolling down the shutters as Bersih 3.0 protesters rampage through the streets. Malaysians rightly consider 'feeling safe' to be an inalienable right.

Amid all the politicising of crime statistic in the lead-up to GE13, the government made the point that although serious crimes are on the way down, again, it takes ultimate responsibility for the perceptions of crime and the right for people to feel safe within their homes. On this issue the government will stand up and be counted.

And the fact that personal security doesn't rank highly as an election issue compared with the economy and education, is in itself a ringing endorsement of the job the authorities and police are doing to allay our fears.

Throughout the Sulu standoff, the Opposition media has sought to make capital out of the government's patient approach but it has been an entirely proper response. Najib always said he would exhaust all options for a peaceful stand-off before giving the order for police to engage the intruders.

But Najib has made it clear there is no way back for the Sulu intruders now. Having spilt Malaysia blood the "grace period" is over. They can still surrender and avoid further bloodshed, but there will no longer be a boat ride back home at the end of this without them having to answer for their actions.

The intruders have now run out of options.

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