Sultanate leader orders armed Pinoys in Sabah to come home-A A +A
Sunday, March 3, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The leader of all sultans of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo Kingdom called on Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and his more than 200 followers, who have been holed up in Sabah, Malaysia, to return to the Philippines to prevent more bloodshed.
The call came after at least nine people were killed in a fresh clash Saturday night between Malaysian police and followers of Kiram in Sabah, bringing the death toll to 23 as of this posting Sunday.
The clash Saturday night occurred 150 kilometers (90 miles) from another district in Lahad Datu, where 14 people were killed earlier after Kiram’s group occupied a village since February 12 to claim the territory as their own.
"The sultanate's courage and solidarity is again put to the test and a tougher test at that. We are again given more reason to embrace the belief that we cannot always rely on the government of the Philippines. Many times in the past, they have been a stumbling block to the redemption of our territorial heritage," said Paramount Sultan Ibrahim Bahjin-Shakirullah II.
Bahjin was installed Paramount Sultan in 2004. He is the head of Royal Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo Kingdom, making him the leader of all sultans of the two Royal Houses under the sultanate.
Kiram’s group from Sulu, Philippines has been claiming the land in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu, Sabah for nearly a century. The crowned prince of Sulu and his followers went to Sabah last February 12 to reclaim the resource-rich territory but they were surrounded instead by Malaysian security forces for being security threats.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier appealed for them to go home but Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, brother of Raja Muda Agbimuddin, ignored it, saying the fact that Malaysia has been paying an annual rent of 5,300 ringgit (roughly P70,000) to the Sultanate of Sulu shows that their territorial claim is valid.
The sultan said his brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin, went to Sabah to “peacefully settle” the issue. “History proves that the Sultan of Sulu has never been involved in any violence in its quest for justice. It is very inappropriate to level the Sulu of Sulu as violent entity. As far as we are concerned, we haven't committed a crime.”
But on Friday, Malaysian authorities clashed with the clan members, leaving 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian police commandos dead.
Another firefight ensued Saturday after some followers of Kiram reportedly ambushed and killed six Malaysian policemen, as fears mounted that the armed Filipinos had slipped into at least three coastal districts on Borneo island.
Two of the attackers were also fatally shot Saturday night, while another was beaten to death by angry villagers, escalating tensions in eastern Sabah state, Malaysian authorities said.
Malaysia National Police Chief Ismail Omar said the attack Saturday happened while members of the police team were inspecting a settlement in Semporna town.
Police said they were also investigating sightings of armed foreigners in military-style clothing in a third Sabah seaside district nearby.
It was not clear whether the groups in the three areas had links to each other.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Sunday that army reinforcements have been sent to Sabah, adding that he was confident about their ability to control the situation. He earlier said that his government would offer "no compromise — either they surrender or face the consequences if they refuse."
Police dropped leaflets by helicopter over the occupied village Saturday telling the Filipinos to give up, while the navy bolstered patrols in waters between Malaysia and the Philippines.
Three of the intruders tried to escape late Saturday and were caught, Ismail said, without elaborating.
As tension continues, Philippine diplomats in Malaysia deployed a team that includes a consul general and a police attache to Lahad Datu and sought access from Malaysian police for the group to help provide assistance to Filipinos who have been wounded and displaced by the violence.
In a statement, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya said they have already informed Malaysian authorities that an embassy team is in the town to attend to Filipinos affected by the tension there.
“We are here in Lahad Datu on a consular, humanitarian mission. We would also like to extend consular assistance to the wounded and other affected nationals, and have access to them once practicable,” Malaya said.
Also with the embassy team is Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Jose Brillantes, who was sent to Malaysia on February 25.
“We would like to see how we could work with local authorities in further assisting our nationals affected by the situation,” Brillantes said.
Other members of the team are Consul General Medardo Macaraig, Police Attaché Charlo Collado, Assistance to Nationals officer Mustapha Lucman and Ariel Esparto, Attaché Joy Calip, and Police Administrative Assistant Pastor Reano.
The Philippine officials urged jittery Filipino residents in Sabah to stay calm and avoid any action that might complicate the problem.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who is in Manila, told reporters that he was worried the violence in Sabah might spread because many Filipinos, especially followers of his sultanate in the southern Philippine, are upset by the killing of their compatriots in Lahad Datu.
Some Malaysians have also voiced worries about whether tens of thousands of Philippine migrants living in Sabah, many undocumented workers, might sympathize with the Filipino group and cause unrest if they're upset with the government's reaction to the crisis.
Jamalul Kiram’s daughter, Jacel, who is a sultanate princess, called on Filipinos to stay calm but stressed the sultanate would never back down from its struggle to reclaim Sabah.
"This concerns honor above life," she told reporters. "We will not retreat just like that, because we're fighting for something and our struggle is our right and the truth."
She criticized the Philippine Government for echoing Malaysia's call for the Filipinos in Lahad Datu to surrender unconditionally.
The crisis in Sabah erupted during peace negotiations brokered by Malaysia between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim rebel group in Mindanao. (AP/Virgil Lopez/HDT/Sunnex)