The standoff-A A +A
By DP Limlingan
Monday, March 11, 2013
I HAVE been to Sabah, Malaysia, not recently but late last year. My trip was for a brief leisure to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state in East Malaysia, its suburbs and some of its countryside location. The city is located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea.
The state capital was said to have gotten its name from Mount Kinabalu, an attraction to the island where wide varieties of flora and fauna abound. It’s a favorite tourism destination because of its lush green vegetation and clean sea water and beaches very conducive for a getaway.
A trip to the rural areas has revealed to me the place where the loyal fighting men of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III stay. It is also where the fighting happened that claimed the lives of some of Kiram’s men and some of Malaysian police.
The terrain is rugged, hilly and forested. It’s an ideal place for a hide-and-shoot activity. The fighting men from Sulu had an advantage, for they positioned themselves and established cover on trees and the lush vegetation, before pursuing authorities got there. The Malaysian police forces meanwhile had their advantages too since they were somewhat familiar with the territory and the terrain.
To recall what had happened, armed men from Sulu sailed to Lahad Datu in Sabah last February 12, calling themselves as the “Royal Army of Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.”
They demand recognition as the rightful owners of the Sabah province, occupying some villages and involving themselves in firefights with Malaysian police forces. Both invaders and defenders lost some men with a series of shootouts.
While Sultan Kiram and his royal clan have perhaps a real right over Sabah, he has no right to simply invade a territory and shoot everyone on their way. If he has a claim over the island he should have instead addressed the same over the proper forum.
I surmise that Sultan Kiram has anticipated that our Philippine government would bite its claim and involve its military forces too in taking siege of Sabah. The same did not happen and our government maintained silence.
The situation is quite shaky as the Sabah invasion might affect the relationship between the Philippines and Malaysia. Worthy to note is the fact that the two countries have a very good diplomatic relationship. Our government cannot afford to compromise the whole country with the claim of some clan alleging that Sabah is theirs.
I cannot help asking why is it only now that Sultan Kiram and his clan are making their claims over the island? If Sabah is actually theirs, how come they allowed the present occupants of the island to stay there for a long time?
In the layman’s point of view, there is this group self-proclaiming to be a part of a royal clan of the Sultanate of Sulu that claims an island that is a part of a foreign country. The said group, instead of doing the diplomatic or legal way of claiming Sabah, staged a siege and got involved in shootouts with the policemen of the island they have invaded.
It’s not that we do not recognize the said claim, there is a better and peaceful way however in making claims aside from the use of arms. Sultan Kiram’s men should pull themselves out before further bloodshed is experienced.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 12, 2013.