Sabah, Malaysia: Mahmud Mallang’s hands started shaking and his heart was beating so fast that he could hear his heartbeats. He was, obviously, not prepared for the ‘surprises’ that awaited him at his village: Kampung Tanjung Batu.
Seeing the spent shells, damaged houses due to firefights between the Malaysian security forces and the armed Filipino intruders, just broke his heart.
“I lost two houses, both burnt down, including my newly bought Isuzu DMax,” he said when leading some 20 household heads to ascertain their losses following the green light from the police and National Security Council to enter the village, yesterday.
The 72-year-old Tanjung Batu village head, meanwhile, estimated his losses at some RM200,000.
Mahmud said that he had been briefed on the village’s conditions prior to their trip, but what he witnessed personally was beyond his expectation.
“I cannot believe that this village, which used to be a peaceful and beautiful place has turned into something so bare that it looked ‘dead’ … a sudden rush of sadness crept in and I had to hold back my tears hard,” he said.
Mahmud disclosed that the village, which covers about 1,000 acres, have a total of 103 houses, four halls, a mosque and a surau, with a population of some 450 people, of which, according to him, mostly possess valid documents.
“We would like to stay here since most of us have built our lives in this area,” said Mahmud, who plants oil palm for a living.
He said he was away for some business in town when the villagers were advised to leave the houses immediately.
“But I was told by villagers that the intruders had asked for me. They wanted to see me, but I never got to meet them so I do not know what exactly they wanted from me,” he said.
His son, Azmain Mahmud 35, meanwhile, has a different story to tell.
“It was early morning and I was standing outside my house when a group of armed men came. They demanded I go with them and I was led to join some 30 other villagers.
“I was slapped twice and had a ‘badong’ (or barong, a local name for machete), up my throat. They were asking me some questions, speaking in Bajau and Suluk languages … I thought I was going to die that day.
“I prayed real hard, all I could think of at that time was God, I guess my prayers were answered as my life was spared.
“They instead asked me to buy rice for them, I obliged and all the while, planning an escape … I manage to slip out and ran as fast as I could. That was how I got away,” he said.
Azmain is however unsure how the others managed to escape, but disclosed that he was relieved to see them at the Embara Budi evacuation centre.
He heard that some of the villagers were putting up at the Fajar Harapan evacuation centre or relatives.
Azmain, who is still traumatised by the incident, said he hates sitting alone because, as he puts it:, “That is when I start to think of the awful moment.”
He said there was no point of crying over what had happened, and he does not intend to leave his village.
“I am glad that my wife and daughter are safe. I am thankful that I managed to escape a day before the offensive against the intruders. I will accept this as a challenge from God and I have to thank Him for this valuable life lesson.
Like anybody else in Kampung Tanjung Batu, Mahmud and Azmain will have to pick up from where they have left off.
More text and photos from Borneo Post Online.