Lahad Datu (The Star/ANN) - Malaysia has given an ultimatum to the remnants of the Sulu armed group: "Lay down your arms or be eliminated.''
As elite security forces tightened the noose around the gunmen on the run in two villages, a determined Prime Minister Najib Razak rejected an offer of a unilateral ceasefire offer by the self-styled Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III yesterday and declared that the military and police would hunt the remaining Sulu gunmen down if they refused to give up.
"These operations will continue for as long as it takes," the prime minister said at a press conference after getting a closer look at the offensive against the Sulu gunmen, which entered its third day yesterday.
Najib said he received a call from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III earlier in the day asking him about the feelings among Malaysians about Jamalul's offer of a unilateral ceasefire. "I told him that they will have to lay down their weapons unconditionally."
Najib said he was satisfied with the achievements of the combined military and police forces and said it would serve as a framework for more joint operations in tackling future security threats.
"Each contributed their specialities to the operations, resulting in the achievements that we have today," he added.
Najib said there should not be any more polemics about the position of Sabah within Malaysia.
"This should not arise at all. From a legal perspective, Sabah is a part of Malaysia and in the Cobbold Commission, more than two-thirds of the people in the state voiced their intention to be part of this nation (in 1963)," he said.
"So the question about Sabah being part of Malaysia cannot be disputed by anyone inside or outside this country. And we will defend this position," he said.
Najib said leaders of the Suluk community in Sabah met him earlier in the day in Tawau and had pledged their loyalty to the country.
"They also condemned the actions of the Sulu gunmen," he added.
Jamalul had earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire from 12:30pm yesterday and urged Malaysia to reciprocate, according to a statement read out by his spokesman Abraham Idjirani in Manila.
"They will not take any action," the spokesman said. "They will remain in the place where they are now. They will not expand operations," he added, referring to the militants.
COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK