Families who fled scene of occupation in Lahad Datu plead for food and aid from authorities

Thomas Pi | February 23, 2013
TANJUNG LABIAN (LAHAD DATU): Eighty villagers who fled Kg Tanduo after word spread that gunmen from the Southern Philippines were approaching their village are struggling to survive on their own.
The villagers from 15 families which made up Kg Tanduo are bearing the brunt of the occupation of their land and their only livelihood after it was overrun by the armed group claiming to be soldiers from the Sulu Sultan’s Army in the Southern Philippines on Feb 9.
They are now living with impoverished relatives along the shores of Sulu Sea in Tanjung Labian and are pleading for food as no aid has been provided to them for the past two weeks.
“Tidia bantuan, tiada beras, gula, garam and susu untuk anak (we have got no help, no rice, sugar, salat and milk for my children),” said Minda Abu Samma who fled Kg Tandau with a 12 children and the clothes they had on.
She and three of her extended families of about 20 individual have only received help from the Tg Labian villagers who have been giving them vegetables, tapioca and papaya daily.
“Saya minta tolong orang kampung untuk bagi sikit sayur masak untuk anak” (I always ask the villagers for vegetables to cook for my children), said Minda, 41, whose family moved into an abandoned stilt hut which they patched up with an atap roof while they build a sturdier structure nearby.
Minda and her brother, Akasa Abu Samah, 34, said that apart from some rations given to them by General Operations Forces on the first few days, no government authority has come forward to provide assistance.
“We have enough food growing back in Tanduo. We don’t need any help if we can only go back now,” said Minda who was grateful for the six bags of rice given to the families by journalists reporting on the standoff and Umno Silam Division committee member, Aliandu Injil yesterday (Friday) afternoon.
Unable to harvest crops
Minda and Akasa who fled to Tg Labian with 14 other families staying there after the Sulu armed group led by Rajah Muda Azzimudie Kiram, the younger brother of Sultan Kiram, moved into the village.
Malaysian security forces have cordoned off Kg Tandui within the Felda Sahabat 17 settlement since Feb 12, keeping all the villagers out except for one elderly and infirmed farmer identified as Pak Cik Umrah.
He and his wife, who was also ill, were the last to leave the villages about fours days ago, when they went to get medicines for their ailments in Tg Labian and were stopped from returning to Tanduo by Malaysian security personnel.
His wife, who is now also staying with relatives in Tg Labian, and her family members refused to be interviewed by the media.
Relatives of the families said that many of them had also left identity documents behind in Kg Tanduo and were feeling the strain each day the standoff between the security forces and the Sulu group comprising of more then hundred men dragged on.
The farmers and small holders kept out by a 20km land and sea cordon say they have been unable to tend or harvest the crops on their small farms.
The stand off has also forced the closure of several schools in Felda Sabahat area for a week as well as some outside the scheme such as SK Tungku about 30kms away.

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