MANILA, Philippines - The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo on Tuesday denied reports that it paid members of the Royal Security Force (RSF) to enter Sabah last February.
Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III could not afford to pay RSF members and their supporters into entering Sabah and starting the ongoing standoff with Malaysian security forces.
â€œWe refute the allegation that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III paid members of the RSF to enter Sabah,â€ said Idjirani.
The Malaysian police said it is now investigating several Malaysians suspected of financing the Sabah incursion.
Citing unnamed sources, the Malaysian Star Online reported over the weekend that Datuk Seri Muhammad Ridzwan Sulaiman, head of a charity foundation, and several others paid Sulu militants to enter Kampung Tanduo before security forces began flushing them out on March 5.
Ridzwan later showed up at the Ampang Jaya police headquarters to give his statement on the Lahad Datu incursion.
Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said Ridzwan, from George Town in Penang, is the president of Al-Ehsan Islamiah charity foundation.
Ridzwan told police that he did not know Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, whose younger brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram led some 200 armed members of the sultanate royal army in taking Lahad Datu last Feb. 12, with the aim of reclaiming Sabah.
Idjirani said that Ridzwan admitted that he did not give money to Sultan Kiram but to another claimant to the Sulu throne, his nephew Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram.
â€œRidzwan has declared that he does not know Sultan Jamalul and the Raja Muda. This could only mean that the conspiracy was hatched in Malaysia. They (Malaysia) is using that charity foundation to challenge the legitimacy of the Sultan of Sulu,â€ said Idjirani.
According to Idjirani, it was also Ridzwan who financed the coronation last December of Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram.
Idjirani however stressed that even if Muedzul was â€œcoronatedâ€ he is still far away from being declared as the Sultan of Sulu as he is 14th in the line of succession.
Idjirani added that Malaysia is now engaged in a disinformation campaign against the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.
Meanwhile, Idjirani also slammed Malaysia for claiming that the eight men earlier reported as arrested are supporters of the Sultanateâ€™s Royal Security Force.
According to Idjirani, of the names of the eight reported as arrested, only one was verified to be a member of the RSF. The name was that of Holan Kalbi, a member of the RSF from Simunul, Sulu and a relative of Sultan Jamalul.
However, Idjirani stressed that Kalbi was among those who died during the initial clash with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu last March 1. Idjirani added that the eight men are most likely Malaysian supporters of Sultan Muedzul.
â€œEven if they are not Filipinos and are not RSF fighters, the Sultanate of Sulu will still help them as they are historical constituents of the Sulu Sultanate,â€ said Idjirani. According to Idjirani, the identities of the arrested Malaysians were verified by a RSF fighter who used the alias â€œGuru Bata II.â€
As for the eight more men who are suspected to be RSF fighters who have also been charged in Malaysian courts for the Sabah incursion, Idjirani dared Malaysia to reveal their identities.
Idjirani said that the eight newly-charged men could also be Malaysian civilian supporters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram.
â€œThey should reveal the names of the arrested and charged immediately. We will not deny if they are really RSF fighters,â€ he said.