Philippines asks Malaysia anew to extend deadline in Sabah-A A +A
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The Philippine Government again requested for an extension of the deadline set by Malaysia for a Sulu-based clan that is holed up in a town in Sabah, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that for the fourth time on Tuesday, he asked the Malaysian Government for an extension for "several days."
The deadline previously set already lapsed on Tuesday night, but the Foreign Affairs chief said everything is "quiet" in Lahad Datu town.
Raul Hernandez, Foreign Affairs spokesman, also said there were "no movements" from the armed group and the Malaysian authorities.
"Quiet is good, right? I think nothing coming out of it can be probably attributed to the time being given (to the group) to process the President's message," del Rosario said.
"So far, there are no developments. There are no movements of Filipinos and Malaysian government in that area. That's what we hope to happen is for the sultan to order his men to leave Lahad Datu. We don't want anybody to get hurt or to die in that area," Hernandez said.
President Benigno Aquino III called on Sultan Jamalul Kiram to order his followers to come home.
Aquino will only talk to the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate once their followers have left Sabah, said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, adding it would be hard for the President and Kiram to hold a dialogue while there is tension in the Malaysia-controlled island.
"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 he was open to hold dialogue with the government, but this should be conducted while his followers are still in Lahad Datu.
Hernandez said the group should come home, so that they can "sit down" with the Philippine Government and air their grievances, one of which is the alleged human rights violations committed against Filipinos in Sabah.
"When they're here, we could have dialogue and consultations to discuss grievances including that issue," he said.
"What is important for the government now is to make sure that 200 Filipinos in Lahad Datu are safe and secure, and they would not be hurt in their stay in Lahad Datu," Hernandez added.
However, he said the Malaysian Government has yet to respond regarding the request for extension.
"We are hoping that they are also giving the group the time to process the message that was shared by the President," Hernandez said.
The Malaysian Government also did not respond to the extension request late last week, but it apparently did not make arrests even if the deadline already lapsed.
Princess Fatima Cecilia Kiram, wife of the Sultan, when asked about the lapsed deadline, said they are ready for the cause of their claim in Sabah, adding they are expecting anything that would happen and will face the consequences.
The people there told the Sultan that they are ready to die for the cause of this claim in Sabah, she said.
Fatima Kiram also clarified that there are no children inside the camp, and only six to eight women are there who will not also leave the area.
The Philippines earlier sent a humanitarian ship to fetch the women and civilians from Lahad Datu.
Hernandez said, however, that the ship is currently in Sibutu Island in Tawi-Tawi, and that it has not docked in Lahad Datu yet.
Reports from Malaysia earlier said that BRP Tagbanua already docked in Sabah.
The department also called on some 180 members of the royal army to board the ship and prevent from being arrested or forcibly deported by the Malaysian authorities once the deadline sets in.
A group of 180 individuals with 30 armed escorts arrived in the town of Lahad Datu in Sabah last week to claim what they call their "ancestral homeland." The group calls themselves the royal army of the Sulu Sultanate.
Sabah is a contested territory between the Philippines and Malaysia, albeit Manila's claim on it remained dormant for years.
Reports said the standoff in Sabah is a way to derail the peace agreement forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamist rebel group based in Mindanao.
The Bangsamoro region, which is seen to end the decades-old bloodshed between Philippine government forces and the rebels, is set to be created next month.
Sabah was believed to have been leased to the British North Borneo Company by the Sultanate of Sulu in the late 1800s, but Great Britain officially transferred the island to Malaysia in 1963.
The Sultanate of Sulu claims that it is in violation of the leasing agreement. And although Kuala Lumpur maintains its ownership of the island, its embassy in Manila continues to pay the heirs of the sultan of Sulu a reported amount of P70,000 yearly. (CVB/SDR/Sunnex)