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Putrajaya’s all-out strike on Tuesday to flush out Sulu militants entrenched in Sabah’s east coast may help the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition hold on to power in Election 2013, several political observers say.
But the military’s air and ground assaults, 24 days after a 200-strong group of armed Filipinos invaded the north Borneo state — long regarded a BN safe deposit — could also swing the other way, depending on the government’s follow-up response, two academics told The Malaysian Insider.
“There is no reason why Sabah voters would not want to renew the support (for BN),” said Dr Arnold Puyok, a political analyst based in Kota Kinabalu.
“That’s what the people of Sabah wanted from the very beginning,” he said, of Putrajaya’s show of muscle on Tuesday, after three weeks of negotiations failed to stir the insurgents into leaving the state peacefully.
The university lecturer believed the bombing would “rebuild public confidence” towards the BN government.
He said Sabahans were initially unhappy with the government as it had seemed indecisive because of the delay in taking tough action against the foreigners whom they saw as posing a real threat to their safety and Malaysia’s sovereignty.
But he said the anger has gradually subsided, and many Sabahans were now “praising the sacrifice made by the security forces”.
“Najib going all out to defuse the threats posed by the insurgents has restored public confidence a bit,” Puyok said.
“They want the BN and the opposition to stop politicising the issue and to focus on defeating the intruders. They believe Sabah’s security and sovereignty are at stake and it is the responsibility of the elected leaders to do something — either from the opposition or the BN,” he said.
Sabah BN secretary Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan also said Sabahans have been sharing their gratitude and relief towards the government’s latest security measures.
“Right now, the government’s measures are seen as successful.
“Support is increasing, because after the stern action shown by the government and the security forces, Sabahans everywhere are thankful for the government’s service and sacrifice,” said the Kota Belud MP.
Eight Malaysian policemen were killed in combat with the militants in Lahad Datu and Semporna. Reports of their bodies being mutilated have sparked widespread anger among locals.
Other BN lawmakers echoed Abdul Rahman’s sentiments.
“Sabahans fully support government’s well-considered decision to attack intruders to protect sovereignty and independence of our nation,” said Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak, who is also Sabah Legislative Assembly Speaker and the state Umno deputy chief.
But Salleh was swift to add that the ruling party was not taking political advantage of the conflict and urged all parties against politicising the situation.
“The people will be united and fully behind the government and prime minister who gives top priority to protect security and stability of Sabah,” he said.
Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said he did not think the bombardment would affect voter support towards the BN, although he acknowledged that “the firmness shown was crucial, it was so the confidence and trust in the BN would not be jeopardised.”
Other political scientists monitoring the situation unfolding in Sabah said that strong feelings of dissatisfaction towards the BN remain despite the military shelling to smoke out the gunmen.
When Sabahans are angry they will look for leaders that can give them peace. — Universiti Putra Malaysia professor Dr Jayum A. Jawan
Dr Faisal Hazis, a Kuching-based political scientist, said the actions along Sabah’s restive east coast could cause a “backlash”, owing to the BN government’s past policies in the state. -Yahoo-