Malaysia to Sulu sultan: Surrender or face action-A A +A
Saturday, March 2, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday negotiations with members of a Muslim royal clan from Sulu, Philippines are over, one day after a shootout left 14 people dead.
In the Philippines, Senator Francis Escudero wanted an investigation of reports that some 100 Filipinos residing in Sabah had been rounded up in the aftermath of Friday's shootout between Malaysian forces and armed followers of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III.
Najib said, "The government gives them two options: surrender or face the security actions. What they have done is a serious crime they have armed themselves and killed two Malaysian law enforcers."
He said the armed followers of Kiram had entrapped the Malaysian security forces by pretending to surrender hoisting a white flag and fired at them.
"They were cowards if it is true what they have committed."
The Malaysian armed forces imposed a curfew since 4 p.m. on Friday and said they have cornered several remaining Sulu gunmen in Sabah's Lahad Datu in the Tanduo village.
Gunbattle broke out between the Philippine group and Malaysian armed forces Friday morning after the rebels started firing at the armed forces. Police said 12 Sulu gunmen were killed and an unknown number of them were injured.
Some among the rebels have surrendered while others fled to the sea.
Jacel Kiram, a daughter of the sultan, indicated that her uncle, Agbimuddin Kiram, who is still in Lahad Datu, would not surrender.
She said the President's order of "surrender now with no conditions" is "not acceptable"
"The decision remains the same — they will not return here because honor is above life," she told DZBB radio in Manila. "What is life without honor?"
Abraham Idjirani, a spokesman for the sultan, said the sultan's brother was unharmed in Friday's clash. He said among those killed on the clan's side were a 33-year-old woman and her 18-year-old son.
The rebel group has refused to heed an ultimatum earlier set by both the Philippine and Malaysian authorities to leave.
After Friday's shootout there were reports that Filipinos in Sabah were rounded up after Malaysian authorities enforced a curfew.
“My concern since the standoff began was for our countrymen residing in Sabah. If the reports of arrests are true, then this is the bigger tragedy that demands an immediate resolution,” Escudero said.
There are an estimated 800,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah, most of whom are reportedly subjected to frequent exploitation by Malaysian authorities since they are not Malaysian citizens.
“The welfare of our countrymen who consider Sabah as their homeland should now be the focus of the government’s negotiations with Kuala Lumpur,” the senator said.
He explained that the country’s interest should be detached from the private claim of the Sulu Sultanate since involving the whole nation in it may affect the Philippines’ good relations with Malaysia.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III asked Saturday the followers of Kiram to surrender without conditions to prevent further bloodshed.
"If you have grievances, the path you chose was wrong. The just, and indeed, the only correct thing for you to do is to surrender," Aquino said in a statement read by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacieda in a news briefing.
"To those who have influence and the capacity to reason with those in Lahad Datu, I ask you to convey this message: surrender now, without conditions," the President added.
Malacanang also made an assurance Saturday that government is ready to help Filipinos affected by the ongoing standoff in Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has dispatched teams that will help Filipinos in need in Sabah.
“We have a medical team, there is food… everything is there. As a matter of fact, DSWD has dispatched even teams to try to seek out the families of those that need to be attended to,” he said.
Asking Malaysia to allow ships from the Philippines to dock in Sabah was one of the diplomatic actions made by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday, Almendras said.
The standoff elevated the Sabah territorial issue, which has been a thorn in Philippine-Malaysian relations for decades, to a Philippine national security concern.
The crisis erupted at a crucial stage of peace negotiations — brokered by Malaysia — between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the southern Philippines.
Aquino has said the standoff may have been an attempt to undermine his government on the part of those opposing the peace deal, including politicians and warlords who fear being left out in any power sharing arrangements. (SDR/PNA/AP/Sunnex)