*This is my first draft for my Different Spin column. Uncensored.
For Different Spin, Metro section, THE STAR 15th March 2013
I am reading reports that life is slowly returning back to normal in the small coastal town of Lahad Datu, after the horrible intrusion of the Sulu terrorists that started about a month back. Just a few days ago, I was ‘requested’ to help make #SabahBounceBack a trending topic on twitter. Admittedly, I held back celebratory attempts on social media.
When the invaders arrived early February, I felt a bit puzzled on the contrasting reports I was receiving. Being a Sabahan who has lived in Semenanjung Malaysia for over 15 years now, I get news about my hometown from my parents and siblings over our ‘Iking-Phone-Groupchat’, and bits of articles written in our dailies. So when dad and the boys raised their concerns on the safety of Sabah (we have relatives in Lahad Datu), I was naturally afraid but confused at the same time because initially, our leaders seemed pretty lackadaisical with the whole situation making us believe that there was nothing to worry about. I assume they did that to prevent unnecessary panic amongst us?
Whatever it was, I remember receiving chilling updates from my father and over twitter during my rehearsals the night before hosting a LIVE Awards show. Stuck in a 5-star hotel choreographing our steps for the big night, my mind was elsewhere.
Our news reporter assigned to host the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the Bella Awards show, confirmed that two police commandos had been killed. I thought there was not going to be any bloodshed? I remember the ballroom going quiet but (as unfeeling) as the saying goes, the show must go on.
On the night of the Bella Awards, 2nd of March - I was not my usual, cheerful self. It did not help that there was a bit of nerves prior to hosting the inaugural Women’s Award show LIVE on television and the station was fighting for ratings from a TV competitor who was airing another LIVE Awards show across town too.
The worried concerns of my folks and relatives were about the stories of these Sulu intruders who were rumoured to have invaded different parts of Sabah, ready to start chaos and disturbance upon cue, if their Sulu Sultanate’s demands were not met. Cybertroopers either denied or affirmed these allegations. I just wanted to know the truth. Don’t we all? My family and relatives all live there, and I was worried.
During the LIVE show, my co-hosts and I suddenly received curt instructions from our Studio Director through our earpiece, asking us, to tell the glitzy guests in the ballroom (who seemed a bit fidgety with the long wait), that the extended 6-minute commercial break was to give way to the news department for some breaking news. In the meantime, the producers wanted us to keep the audience in the room entertained.
“Crack a joke or two Daph…do your running man. Just entertain them.”
It was hard for me to conceal the anguish I felt. I stood there in a beautiful gown, surrounded by all things sparkly, on standby to continue going LIVE on national television and was putting on the most sincere smile I could muster. My Floor Manager was gesturing me to make my smile bigger. For the first time in my broadcasting life, it was very hard for me to separate my personal and worklife. I was not in the mood to joke and to put on a happy face. I kept thinking about my parents and their safety.
No one could tell me what the breaking news was at that point and being a journalist myself, it was frustrating to say the least.
Once the show was over, I skipped the after-party and headed straight to the hotel Coffeehouse. I called my parents straightaway. The news update interruption was regarding the killing of six more police personnel and the burial of the slain cops.
My heart thumped harder.
I guess the Government’s initial ‘appeasement policy’ towards these foreign intruders and downplaying the threat from the invaders, was not making the progress they thought it should be - so finally, our Malaysian security forces took action. Judging from my twitter feed, I knew some thought their response was too slow. Others had their own conspiracy theories saying the appeasement was part of a ‘master game plan’ to make the Sulu invaders look unreasonable, hence making their eradication easier in later plans.
Whatever the plan or theory was, I sit praying that things ARE getting better over in the East side and that there will be peace restored. And let us citizens not take for granted the serenity we are accustomed to on most days and instead, help sustain it. Together.
Daphne Iking is a TV anchor & Journalist and a proud Sabahan. She has many Suluk and Philipino friends and believes there are just two types of people in the world – good or bad. It has nothing to do with race, creed and religion.