LAHAD DATU, Feb 13 — This February marks 11 years since Sulu militants encroached into the country’s waters and landed in stages at Felda Sahabat, Lahad Datu, leading to the clash with security forces in Kampung Tanduo.

Though time has passed, the tragic events of March 1, 2013, which claimed the lives of 10 national heroes and 68 Sulu militants, linger vividly in residents’ memories, sometimes causing them to hesitate to leave their homes, especially at night.

Nevertheless, the constant presence of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) personnel patrolling the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESS Zone) provides a sense of security among Lahad Datu residents, gradually helping them to heal from past trauma.

Mariam Razak, a 56-year-old trader from Kampung Long Danau, said the security forces not only ensure safety but also foster close ties with villagers in an effort to maintain peace in the area.

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With authorities ensuring maritime security, she said residents, especially fishermen, feel more confident to go out and earn a living.

“This village is near a river, a vital fishing route for the locals. We appreciate the diligent monitoring of our village’s safety by the security forces.

“We sincerely hope that the presence of these security personnel will continue to ensure the village’s safety and alleviate social issues among the youth,” she told Bernama recently.

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Another trader, Hasmah Baji, 49, shared her experience of severe trauma in the months following the Tanduo tragedy, to the point where she couldn’t bear to hear any news about it.

“The Tanduo tragedy was deeply unsettling for me, but we feel grateful for the government’s swift response. We’re thankful that now it’s peaceful and residents can carry out activities as usual with ESSCOM personnel safeguarding the community,” she said.

According to her, ESSCOM not only fulfils its responsibility of maintaining security but also collaborates with villagers in organising various activities to strengthen the bond between the two parties.

“This cooperation is vital because residents indirectly serve as the eyes and ears of the security forces,” she added.

Meanwhile, Abd Hamid Abd Rasid, 60, who is also a trader, said that even though Lahad Datu town is quiet at night, he is not worried because he trusts in the efficiency of the authorities.

He said that the arrival of domestic and foreign tourists also increased, motivating traders to extend their operating hours and boost their income.

Therefore, he is very grateful to the government for establishing ESSCOM in Lahad Datu, which ensures the safety of both residents and tourists alike. — Bernama