Aquino to talk only with Kiram if he recalls his followers: Palace-A A +A
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III will only talk to the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate once their followers have left Sabah, Malaysia, Malacanang said Wednesday.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said it would be hard for Aquino and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to hold a dialogue while there is tension in Sabah.
"Let's remove first tension in the area, then let us discuss...in a situation where there are armed people there, where the situation is tensed in Lahad Datu, you don't expect us to come and talk to you. It's like forcing us. That's not acceptable to us," he said in a news briefing.
Kiram said that he was open to hold dialogue with the government, but this should be conducted while his followers are still in Lahad Datu.
Lacierda also said that the burden now is on the Kiram family, not on the government.
"Have we been unreasonable? I will say, no. The government has not been unreasonable. We have sent emissaries to discuss with them. The entire purpose of this is to come up with a peaceful resolution to the incident," he said.
Lacierda reiterated what President Aquino said on Tuesday that the government is not only concerned on the welfare of the 180 followers of the Sultanate of Sulu who have been holed up in Lahad Datu since February 12, but also of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah.
"We have a broader perspective than the 180 people and that's the concern of the President. Our concern is, you come back here, let's defuse the tension there and then let's discuss it," he said.
"Is that unreasonable? I think that's a fair and prudent act and I think that should be reciprocated by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III," he added.
He expressed hope that the Kirams would not take a course of action that will lead to violence.
Lacierda also clarified that when Aquino mentioned in his statement on Tuesday the "hopeless cause" phrase, he was not referring on the territorial claim over Sabah but on how Kiram's group has been trying to air their grievances.
"And so this is my appeal to you: These are your people, and it behooves you to recall them. It must be clear to you that this small group of people will not succeed in addressing your grievances, and that there is no way that force can achieve your aims," Aquino said in his message to Kiram.
"You are a leader of your clan, and every leader seeks the well-being of his constituents. These times require you to use your influence to prevail on our countrymen to desist from this hopeless cause," he said.
Lacierda said that the Philippine claim over Sabah is now being studied by the government.
But as to who are the rightful heirs of the Sulu Sultanate, he said it would be up to the Kiram clan to decide.
"We don't have a say on who are the heirs. That was decided---the heirs agreed among themselves, who are the rightful heirs; who are the claimants to the Sultan right now. That is something that the crowned council should decide amongst themselves. So that’s not for us to say," he said.
Lacierda also denied anew that the Sultanate of Sulu was left out in the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He recalled that Kiram was one among those who were present in Malacañang and witnessed the signing of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15 last year.
Malaysia has been brokering the peace process between the government and the MILF.
Aquino earlier appealed to Kiram to recall his followers from Sabah. But at the same time, he warned them that they will face the full force of law if they continue to defy calls to leave the place. (SDR/Sunnex)