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Sabah Conflict

Sulu Sultan: Followers in Sabah ready to fight to the death

February 28, 2013 9:30am

Tags: Sulu
The Philippine government has ruled out the possibility of engaging Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in negotiations over the Sabah issue amidst rising tensions in Malaysia’s Lahad Datu.

“The burden [of defusing the tensions] is not on us,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said as Malaysia prepares to act to end the impasse in Lahad Datu where armed members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu are poised to strike at anytime.

It has been more than two weeks since dozens of Kiram’s followers, led by his brother Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, led an expedition to Lahad Datu on February 12 to claim Sabah.

Reports reaching Manila from Malaysia said helicopters dropped leaflets asking the Kirams to return to the Philippines, an appeal Manila had also made earlier.

The Royal House of Kiram had been reiterating its ownership of resource-rich Sabah on the basis of historical clams. The Kirams claim that Sabah has been part of the Sulu Sultanate since the 1500s.

Kiram said he and his men are ready to fight to the death. According to Lacierda, the government is still optimistic that a peaceful resolution to the crisis can be reached.

The palace official said that some 180 of Kiram’s men under the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu are involved.

“We continue to exert efforts to have a peaceful resolution. It is up to the Sultan to decide what course of action he will take and I hope that he will not take a course of action that will lead to violence,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda’s position is an iteration to that of the Foreign affairs department.

Kiram has been called on to order his followers to evacuate Sabah and return to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“We believe that the ball is now in Kiram’s court and [he] should be concerned for the well-being and safety of the followers in Lahad Datu. As a responsible leader, we expect Sultan Kiram to now order his men to leave the area,” Hernandez said in an interview aired by the ABC-CBN news channel.

On Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III, in a televised appeal, called on Kiram to recall his men to prevent an outbreak of violence while at the same time warning the Sultan of possible legal action against him and his followers.

Aquino insinuated that Kiram had not been acting on his own and that he had been receiving support from outside. The Sulu Sultan had denied this.

Sabah or North Borneo have not really been an active part of the Sulu Sultanate, at least in modern times. The last time the figured prominently in the country’s history was when foreign powers negotiated for its transfer of stewardship during the 1800s.

Sulus’ solid ownership claim of Sabah is based on the fact that Malaysia has for years been paying the equivalent of $1,500 to “lease” for the territory. - Philippine News
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Tags: Sulu

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