Sabah-A A +A
Friday, March 15, 2013
IT’S a story that won’t go away. The more I read about it, the more I believe that it belongs to the Sultan of Sulu. I also assigned my Journalism class this semester to get the facts about the ownership of Sabah and then write an intelligent opinion piece about it. Here, one of the ones that resonated with me. It is written by Jomari Guillermo, who is among those graduating, God willing, in March.
“My curiosity about Sabah started when I was in grade school. I was always wondering, ‘Why do these HEKASI (Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Sibika at Kultura) books include Sabah in the Philippine map?’ Extensive discussions about my query were never made in any of my classes. However, history tells us that a supercontinent called Pangaea existed a million years ago, connecting the Philippines and Borneo through land bridges. That is why many believe that Filipinos and Malaysians have a lot in common – same race and even similar cultures and traditions. But back to Sabah, which is only 18 miles away from the Philippines.”
“In 1658, the Sultan of Brunei gave the territories of Sabah and Palawan to the Sultanate of Sulu as a reward for its efforts to end a possible civil war in Borneo. In 1878, as a means to acquire weapons to fight the Spanish colonizers in the 19th century, the Sultan of Sulu signed a padjak agreement for, 5,000 Ringgit annually, with the British North Borneo Company (BNBC), represented by Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, giving them lease rights over Sabah. BNBC then transferred its rights to the British Crown. The legality of that transfer has been questioned.”
“During President Diosdado Macapagal’s administration, the Philippines voiced out its claim over Sabah. In 1968, 60 Muslims trained in Corregidor under Operation Merdeka to reclaim Sabah through military means. This operation, which led to the bloody Jabidah massacre, was the main reason for the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). In the same year, Republic Act No. 5446, which defines the baselines of the territorial sea of the country, was passed into law. It states that “this act is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.”
“Talks and negotiations between the Malaysian government and the Sultan of Sulu and his heirs continued, from the Marcos administration up to the Ramos administration.”
“In 1996, Princess Denchurain Kiram wrote to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, requesting to increase the lease to $1 million. In 2001, Sultan Esmail Kiram II again wrote to the Malaysian Prime Minister, through former President Gloria Arroyo, requesting to increase the lease to $855 million a year. In March 14 of the same year, the Malaysian government said they are willing to buy Sabah from the Sultan of Sulu for $800 million. In August 10, 2008, the Sulu provincial government demanded that the annual payment be increased to $500 million. Seven months later, Arroyo signed R.A. 9522 to amend R.A. 5546 and remove Sabah from the archipelagic baselines of the Philippine law. The Supreme Court, however, sustained the baseline law in July 16, 2011 and said that the country’s claim over Sabah can be sought.”
“Hoping to get support towards their claim of Sabah, the Sultan of Sulu wrote a series of letters addressed to the P-Noy administration. However, news reports said that Sultan Kiram’s letters never reached P-Noy’s desk because it was ‘lost in the bureaucratic maze.’”
“Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s statement that Sabah will ‘forever’ be theirs is disrespectful. Sabah belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu. This thorny issue on who really owns Sabah should’ve been solved many years ago. The real issue here is the translation of the word, padjak. BNBC argues that padjak means “grant or cede” while in fact, what the word really means is “lease or rent.” No wonder the Malaysian Embassy up to now pays an annual lease to the heirs of the Sultanate.
“Former Senator Jovito Salonga in 1963 said, ‘The claim to North Borneo is not the claim of the President, nor of the Liberal Party, nor of his Administration, but a claim of the entire Republic, based on respect for the rule of law, the sanctity of contractual obligations, the sacredness of facts and the relentless logic of our situation in this part of the world.’ This tug-of-war, which recently killed a reported 63 people, 54 of whom are likewise reportedly Filipinos, has to end. Why would the Malaysians and PNoy ask them to leave Sabah when it is their home?”
“I also hope that Sabah will soon no longer be just part of a map, but a part of the country.”
Let me add that in this situation, our government can do a whole lot more to help the Sultanate of Sulu than it does and should. Come on, already!
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 16, 2013.