No house, no job, no future for Inda in Sabah


LAHAD DATU—She fears for her life and that of her family here in Sabah. But if she goes back to Tawi-Tawi, they will have nothing, too—not a house, not a job, perhaps not a future.

For Inda, it seems she has nowhere to go. She wonders what fate awaits her family if they leave Sabah.

But the mother of four young children now finds herself denying her own ancestry for her own safety. She feels she and her family can no longer stay here.

“I was on my way to work recently when I was accosted by a policeman. He asked me if I was an Orang Suluk. I told him I wasn’t. I said I was Visayan,” Inda, 36, told Filipino reporters here.

She asked that her real name not be published. More than being an illegal immigrant, Inda is scared because she is Tausug, or an Orang Suluk. And she and her family are under suspicion that they are “conniving” with the followers of the sultanate of Sulu who landed here, in Tanduao village, last month to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia.

The conflict has claimed the lives of dozens of people—followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Malaysian security forces, and innocent civilians.

Inda and her family left Tawi-Tawi for Sabah six years ago, after a recruiter promised her husband a supposedly well-paying job in construction in Felda, a city some 140 kilometers from central Lahad Datu.

It was an opportunity for the family because Inda had just lost her job and their family store had gone bankrupt.

When her husband arrived at Felda, there was no job and no construction site, only a palm oil plantation. He arrived through the “backdoor,” meaning he did not have a passport or any other document that would legalize his stay here.

Nonetheless, Inda followed him, along with their three older children. She gave birth to their fourth child here in Lahad Datu.

The family took a “lantsa,” or a speed boat, to Lahad Datu. And it was the same mode of transportation they used when they wanted to go on vacations in Tawi-Tawi.

Inda said those who wanted to take the motorized boat needed to make bookings. The operator would call them up if there was a scheduled trip.

“We don’t use passports. We just have to submit photo IDs. We would arrive at midnight here and a car would be waiting for us to bring us wherever we want to be dropped off,” she said.

Inda said they would have to jump off, knee deep, into the waters and wade to the shore.

Sometimes, when they were caught, the operator would bribe the authorities to let them go, as well as to ensure the illegal operation of the lantsa.

Two years ago, the family left Felda. They now live somewhere else. Inda’s husband has found a job as a construction worker. A graduate of marine biology, Inda now works as a waitress.

“This conflict has made us very scared,” Inda said.

She doesn’t allow her husband to go out after he comes home from work, fearing that he will be harassed or hurt.

They have heard of the stories that some Filipinos, mostly Tausug, who are not part of Agbimuddin’s group have been shot or detained.

“They are being hunted down. They would be running away from the police,” Inda said.

She knows of others like her who want to return to Mindanao. But going back is now a problem for all of them.

No lantsa operator is plying the route anymore. Sahabat, where they have the secret port, is heavily guarded by Malaysian forces hunting Agbimuddin and his men.

Inda and her family have no other way of leaving Sabah. “We’re illegal immigrants here. We would need a passport,” she said.

Asked if she thought Sabah belonged to Malaysia and not the Philippines, she answered, “Yes. Why would we be considered illegal immigrants here if Sabah did not belong to Malaysia?”

With no clear options left, Inda said she and her family might just have to wait for the conflict to end.

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  • amalayerjacel

    no house, no job, no future for inda and no $600 for the picnic goer to sabah..

  • Tun Mohd Firdaus

    blame the kiram….

  • David Millon

    I wish thing did not happened and this person could live and make lots of money and eventually can go back to their homeland and build their own house or start a business like many foreigners from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Indonesia did. Indonesian workers here that i know, sending back money and build 3000 sq feet bungalows in their hometown. It is pity they have crossed the line and tolerance.

    • headhunter

      Bro, it is common knowledge foreign workers earn many folds in other countries compared to in PH or Indon. I can tolerate people who are genuinely making effort to look for better life. What I am opposing is people who demand rights, such as the Kiram guys. Which Sabahan in the right mind will surrender their assets to him? Even our Agong and Sutlans have to pay if they want to acquire properties.

      If he is a real Sutlan, why can’t he buy a few bungalow that look like palaces in KK…then maybe he will get better respects in Sabah


    blame the malaysian thieves.

    • headhunter

      You want Sabah eh…then fight for it via proper legal channel.
      Make sure Sabahans accept you too in democratic way.
      If you wish to take Sabah via war, hoping to conquer them via your militants, then don’t fret of the consequences. Malaysian arm forces will shoot you.

  • Malaysian in Singapore

    Why is a graduate of marine biology not working in the Philippines (where marine life is aplenty) but as an illegal waitress in the middle of an oil palm plantation? Why is she lamenting that there is nothing for her back home? Is education no longer one’s ticket out of poverty? The Philippines government must look into this matter with haste.

    • Sepilok

      MIS – this is not uncommon for various reasons – Marine Biology isn’t a high demand degree (many more graduate than jobs), many of the Philippine Uni’s qualification aren’t necessarily recognised overseas and often the pay is better doing these menial tasks overseas, than the one she is qualified for in the Philippines (I meet many Filipinos working in Brunei as shop assistants, who had degrees and sometime Masters).
      I hope she is okay

      • Cabal

        She should have studied finance or IT . Nowadays, information and money is power. Not guns.

  • sepatumerah

    wrong tittle should be…no job, no house and no future in Mindanao …Try read it again…LAHAD DATU—She fears for her life and that of her family here in Sabah.
    But if she goes back to Tawi-Tawi, they will have nothing, too—not a
    house, not a job, perhaps not a future…..she said no future in tawi2

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