GMA News Online
News
»
Nation
»
Sabah Conflict

Timeline: The centuries-old tug-of-war over Sabah

February 18, 2013 2:20pm
Malaysian cops, troops surround Filipino armed group in Sabah
Malaysian cops, troops surround Filipino armed group in Sabah . Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib (center) leaves after a meeting at a police base near Lahad Datu on Borneo island on Sunday. About 100 armed men holed up in a village in Sabah, Malaysia refuse to leave, saying they have links with the Sultanate of Sulu in the Philippines which has a historic claim over the northern tip of Borneo island. Malaysia police and army troops have surrounded the village, with navy boats patrolling nearby islands. Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad
Last week, over 200 allegedly armed men holed up in a village in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah. Identifying themselves as the "royal army" of the Sultanate of Sulu in Mindanao, the group engaged Malaysian authorities in a standoff as authorities from both Philippines and Malaysia discuss ways to address the problem that traces its roots back to the 15th century.

15th century - The Islamic sultanate of Brunei is nominally in control of Borneo, including Sabah and Sarawak states of Malaysia, and some parts of the Sulu islands in the Philippines.

1658 - The Sultan of Brunei cedes Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu in compensation for his help in settling a civil war in the Brunei Sultanate

In June 1658, Brunei Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin awarded the northeast coast of Borneo (Sabah), including Palawan, to Sulu Sultan Salah ud-Din Karamat Bakhtiar for helping settle a civil war dispute against Pengiran Bongsu Muhyuddin.

The Sultan of Sulu sent more than 250 elite Tausug warriors led by Panglima Ilijji (forefather of Nur P. Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front/ MNLF) to assist the Sultan of Brunei.  

1673 - Brunei Sultan Bongsu Muhyuddin, upon ascending to the throne, confirms the Sultan of Sulu as sovereign landowner of the territories of North Borneo/Sabah and the island of Palawan.

1761 - Alexander Dalrymple, Madras representative of the British East India Company, entered into a lease agreement with self-proclaimed Sultan Muiz ud-Din for the rental of Sabah. The agreement permitted Dalrymple to set up a trading post on Balembangan island in Kudat North Borneo (Sabah).

Source: "Historical  Timeline of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu Including Related Events of Neighboring Peoples" by Josiah C. Ang, PM

1878 - Sulu Sultan Jamal ul-Alam leases North Borneo to the Hong Kong-based British trading company of Baron Gustavos von Overbeck and Alfred Dent and confers upon Overbeck the title Datu Bendahara, Raja of Sandakan

Source: "Historical  Timeline of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu Including Related Events of Neighboring Peoples" by Josiah C. Ang, PM

1888 - The United Kingdom establishes protectorate over North Borneo

1939 - A group of heirs of the Sultan filed suit against the Government of North Borneo and the British North Borneo Company for the recovery of the stipulated annual payments. The High Court of the State of North Borneo, through Chief Justice Macaskie, rendered judgment in favor of the heirs on December 18, 1939.

Source: "The North Borneo Question" by Jovito R. Salonga

1941-1945 - North Borneo comes under Imperial Japanese forces during the Pacific War. Following the end of Japanese occupation, the British North Borneo Chartered Company relinquished its duties.

1946 - North Borneo becomes a British crown colony.

Source: ‘Colonial administrators and post-independence leaders in Malaysia (1826–2000)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press

1957 - The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu issue a proclamation declaring the termination of the lease contract over the territory in question effective January 22, 1958.

Source: "The North Borneo Question" by Jovito R. Salonga

1962 -  President Diosdado Macapagal files the Philippines' claim over Sabah with the United Kingdom.

1963 - North Borneo or Sabah united with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore, forming the independent Federation of Malaysia.

United Nations conducted a referendum at the behest of the Philippines and Indonesia. The people of Sabah overwhelmingly voted to become part of Malaysia.

Source: "Where in the World Is the Philippines?: Debating Its National Territory" by Rodolfo Severino

1965-1986 - Relations improved between the Philippines and Malaysia during Ferdinand Marcos' presidency, but the dispute over Sabah was not formally settled.

Source: Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 1 by Ooi Keat Gin

1967 - Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is established. The Sabah crisis persists, but open military confrontation is avoided.

Source: Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 1 by Ooi Keat Gin

1967 - A destabilization plan called Operation Merdeka is set into action. Nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi were recruited and trained in the island-town of Simunul in Tawi-Tawi. The name of the commando unit was Jabidah.

On December 30, the recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor in Luzon for "specialized training."

"This second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission. It struck the recruits that the plan would mean not only fighting their brother Muslims in Sabah, but also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there," Paul F. Whitman wrote in "The Corregidor Massacre - 1968."

On March 18, 1968, the Jabidah planners led the trainees out of their Corregidor barracks on the night of March 18, 1968  in batches of twelve, according to the sole survivor, Jibin Arula. At a nearby airstrip, the planners mowed the trainees down with gunfire, Whitman wrote.

As a result, diplomatic relations were suspended between Malaysia and the Philippines.

1969 - Diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Philippines are formally resumed

1977 - President Ferdinand Marcos declares at the second ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur that the Philippines is "taking definite steps to eliminate one of the burdens of ASEAN - the claim of the Philippines republic.

Source: "Where in the World Is the Philippines?: Debating Its National Territory" by Rodolfo Severino

Former President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) and Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998) continue to seek to improve relations between the two countries.

1993 - Ramos visits Malaysia

1994 - Malaysia Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad (1981 - 2003) visits the Philippines

2001 - Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2000 - 2004, 2004 - 2009) visits Malaysia

Source: Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 1 by Ooi Keat Gin
 
2013 - A group claiming to be the Royal Sulu Sultanate Army lands in Lahad Datu village in Sabah on February 12. A standoff ensued between the group and Malaysian authorities. The group turned out to be followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram, who said his men will never leave Sabah.

— Carmela G. Lapeña/KBK, GMA News
Go to comments



We welcome healthy discussions and friendly debate! Please click Flag to alert us of a comment that may be abusive or threatening. Read our full comment policy here.
Comments Powered by Disqus