Palace urged to first meet with Sulu sultan before reclaiming Sabah

Mike Frialde - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The sultanate of Sulu yesterday urged Malacañang to first neet with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III before making any formal effort to reclaim Sabah.

Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said cooperation between Malacañang and the sultanate would strengthen the Philippine claim over Sabah.

“You cannot remove the right of the Sultan of Sulu. As the Sultan of Sulu, he inherited the legal authority. We could say that he is the owner of  Sabah,” Idjirani told reporters at the residence of Kiram at the Maharlika Village in Taguig City.

“Because of that only the Sultan of Sulu can lay claim on territories lying outside the national boundaries of the Philippines,” Idjirani added.

He said the sultanate, through a special power of authority, gave the Philippine government the authority to pursue the Sabah claim in 1961. Idjirani said the special power of authority was revoked by the sultanate in 1989 after the sultanate felt that the claim was not being vigorously pursued.

“What we are saying is that before there is any attempt by the Philippine government to file a claim on Sabah, they need to talk to the Sultan of Sulu together with the royal families. This will also show that this is now a joint effort between the government and the Filipino people,” said Idjirani.

“The effort to lay Philippine territorial sovereignty over Sabah was delegated by the Sultan of Sulu to the Philippine government in 1961. If the government wants its claim to be legally and historically strong, it needs a fresh special power of authority from Sultan Jamalul Kiram III,” added Idjirani.

He said the sultanate of Sulu is just waiting for Malacanang’s invitation to be part of the process to reclaim Sabah.

Idjirani said the royal heirs of the sultanate drafted a manifesto last Monday which affirmed their support for Sultan Kiram and urged the government to actively pursue the Philippines’ claim on Sabah. Idjirani said the manifesto would be sent to President Aquino.

Kiram said in the event that Malaysia returns Sabah, the Philippine government should recognize the authority of the sultanate of Sulu over the territory.

Idjirani slammed the “hamletting” of Filipino residents in Sabah that Malaysian security forces have enforced to make the Filipinos leave.

“It is a psy-war by Malaysia to force the Filipinos to leave,” he said.

Idjirani said Malaysia is afraid that it might lose Sabah in a referendum should the United Nations call for one.

He said Sabah has a population of 3.2 million, including 1.5 million documented and undocumented Filipinos.

“Malaysia is now afraid. It knows that with the standoff now, the Filipinos are being united by the Sabah issue,” he said.

Sultanate heirs seek unity

The Council of Royal Sharifs (assets protector), heirs, and descendants of the sultanate of Sulu called for a united stand to have one voice to reclaim Sabah.

“What is needed now under the present situation is for all legitimate claimants of Sabah to be united because we would want them to stand as one and we wanted to have one voice so that the international community will not get confused as to who should be the lead claimant,” said Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, a member of the royal sharifs.

He said the sharifs have conducted consultations and initiated efforts to bring all claimants together to speak as one voice to force the Malaysians to return Sabah to the sultanate.

The Council of Royal Sharif have gathered all the datus and heirs of the sultanate from Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan that signed early this week a manifesto detailing its unified stand.

The group also appealed to the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and the Philippine government to intervene to end the hostilities, stop the violation of human rights and extend humanitarian assistance to all victims of the Sabah crisis.

A copy of the manifesto signed last Monday will be forwarded to the UN Secretary General, OIC, ASEAN, NAM, Philippine government, and sultanate of Sulu, and the ambassadors of the US, Great Britain, China, Indonesia, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia.

A copy of the manifesto provided to The STAR stated that the heirs would continue to support the proprietary and sovereign rights of the sultan of Sulu over Sabah, a territory they said was ceded by the sultan of Brunei as gift to the sultan of Sulu for helping suppress a rebellion against the sultan of Brunei in the 1800s.

The group recognized the contract of lease and debunked what the Malaysian government calls a “cession agreement” over Sabah on Jan. 22, 1878 that was forged by Sultan Jamalul Alam and Gustavus Baron de Overbeck with his associate Alfred Dent for a fee of $5,000 annually that was subsequently raised to $5,300.

The group also accepted the agreement of the sultan of Sulu forged by Sultan Muhammad Ismael Kiram I with the Philippines under then Pres. Diosdado Macapagal on Sep. 12, 1962 that empowered the government of the Philippines to pursue the Sabah claim.

They strongly objected to the referendum among Sabah residents that the United Nations Mission conducted in 1963, which the heirs described as being without the consent of the Sulu sultanate.

The council and heirs deplored the actions launched by the Malaysian authorities against Agbimuddin Kiram and his followers through massive ground, aerial and naval assaults.

They also condemned Malaysian authorities for resorting to human rights abuses that forced the evacuation of innocent civilians.

While the council noted the sprouting of several claimants that hindered and distracted the claim of Sabah, the group supported and was solidly behind the leadership of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III as lead claimant.

Assistance to continue

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will continue to give relief assistance to Filipino evacuees from Sabah as long as it is needed.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said that DSWD relief teams have remained in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu to give aid to the Filipinos fleeing from the tension and recent violence in Sabah.

Soliman said the evacuees continued to come, but in small groups, mostly families of up to five members.

She said that the DSWD has adequate quick response funds to continue their relief assistance operations.

She said that if the funds run out, the DSWD could tap their P7.2-billion calamity assistance funds for operations.

“We will continue to provide relief to the evacuees. We have enough funds for this,” Soliman told The STAR late Tuesday.

Soliman earlier said that the relief assistance given to the evacuees is in the form of food and transportation money.

As of yesterday, the DSWD relief teams have assisted more than 3,000 evacuees from Sabah.  – With Roel Pareño, Rainier Allan Ronda

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