Dying Sulu sultan: Pursue Sabah claim

Perseus Echeminada - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who revived the ancestral claim to Sabah earlier this year, died of multiple organ failure yesterday. He was 75.

Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Kiram was able to talk to family members before his death, urging the family to pursue the claim to Sabah.

“Before his last breath, Sultan Kiram was able to talk to his two brothers. His dying wish was also to be buried in the sultanate’s ancient burial ground in Maimbung, Sulu,” Idjirani said.

Idjirani said Kiram was able to issue a decree to his two brothers, Esmail and Agbimuddin, calling for unity in the family and a continued pursuit of the claim on Sabah.

Princess Jacel Kiram said her father was rushed to the hospital on Friday.

Kiram died of multiple organ failure and his remains were brought to the family house near the Blue Mosque in Taguig City.

“My Appah Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has returned to our Creator at around 4:00 in the morning October 20, 2013,” Princess said on her Facebook account.

The widow Fatima said Kiram died an honorable man.

“We thank the people who believed in his ideals; my husband is very nationalistic, he is proud to be a Filipino, he never sold his principles,” Fatima said.

“My husband left an aspiration burning in every Filipino’s heart to repossess Sabah,” she said.

Princess added the death of her father strengthened the resolve to pursue the claim on Sabah.

Malacañang yesterday expressed its condolences to the Kiram family.

“We offer our condolences to the bereaved family and to his loved ones,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Valte, however, said Kiram’s struggle in the claim to Sabah is still under study.

“The study is still ongoing and the question presupposes that the claim is dependent on one person, which it is not, so the study is still ongoing,” she said.

President Aquino ordered a study of the Philippines claim to Sabah since April. There has been no progress, however, until now.

Kiram made headlines in February when his followers led by his brother Agbimuddin laid siege on the town of Lahad Datu in Sabah.

This led to a series of clashes with Malaysian security forces that went on for several weeks and left several people killed and wounded.

Malaysia has filed charges of terrorism against Agbimuddin and his followers of the Royal Sultanate Forces (RSF).

Malaysia said the death of Kiram will not likely ease the threat posed by the RSF on Sabah.

Malaysia’s The Star Online quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that Malaysian security forces “would continue to be on the alert for any intrusion.”

“The death of self-proclaimed Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who ordered the armed intrusion into Sabah in February, is not likely to dilute the security threat posed by Sulu militants to the state,” the report read.

The report also said Hamza has yet to confirm officially the death of Kiram.

The Sultan of Sulu once ruled over islands that are now parts of the southern Philippines, as well as Sabah.

However, the sultanate lost control of Sabah to European colonial powers in the 18th century. The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.

Kiram and his family, as heirs to the sultanate, still receive annual compensation from Malaysia - the equivalent of about $1,700 - but he had previously said this amount was way too low.

Aside from Kiram, there are other descendants of the sultanate who also claim to be the true sultans of Sulu.

Fatima said her husband’s younger brother, Bantilan, would take over as Sultan, stressing he had “the legal authority.”

Idjirani, however, said Agbimuddin, being the crown prince, would succeed Kiram as the new Sultan of Sulu.

Kiram III was the eldest son of the late Sultan Punjungan Kiram and Sharif Usna Dalus Strattan. He directly descended from the first Sultan of Sulu, Sharif ul-Hashim of Sulu from the Banu Hashem tribe.

Kiram, a law graduate of Manuel L. Quezon University, also served as long-time president of the Philippine Pencak Silat Association.

He served as president and chairman of the Malaysian martial arts group since 1991 and also as council member of the Philippine Olympic Committee from 1996 until 2000. -Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero, Abac Cordero

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