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Is payment to Kirams for rental or transfer of Sabah?

A Malaysian official on Friday claimed that the payment being given to the Kiram family was not for rental but for the permanent handover of Sabah to Malaysia. "The 1878 agreement between Alfred Dent and Baron von Overbeck of the British North Borneo Company and the Sultan of Sulu at that time stated that the Sultan of Sulu ceded the region of North Borneo permanently, and the heir is entitled to receive annual payment of 5,300 Mexican Pesos. It is not payment for rent, but as cession," Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister  Datuk Seri Anifah Aman was quoted as saying by a New Straits Times report on Friday. During the 15th century, the Islamic Sultanate of Brunei was nominally in control of Borneo, including Sabah and Sarawak states of Malaysia, and some parts of the Sulu islands in the Philippines. [See timeline here.] But in 1658, the Sultan of Brunei awarded the northeast of Borneo (Sabah), including Palawan, to the Sultan of Sulu in compensation for his help in settling the civil war in his sultanate. In 1878, Sultan Jamalul Alam supposedly leased Sabah to the North Borneo Chartered Company of Baron Gustavos von Overbeck and Alfred Dent. The chartered company eventually turned over the rights over Sabah to the British crown through an agreement in 1946. Twenty-three years later, Sabah united with Malaya, Sarawak, and Singapore to form the independent Federation of Malaysia. Now, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's family and followers are demanding recognition and an increased payment from Malaysia for their claim as the rightful owners of Sabah. The Malaysian embassy in Manila has been paying the Sultanate 5,300 ringgit annually. In an interview earlier in the day, Kiram's daughter Princess Jacel reiterated their claim over Sabah, adding that the measely lease payment of 5,300 ringgit was no longer acceptable to them. Aman, however, said they "have never recognized any outside claims that Sabah does not belong to Malaysia and these claims are non-negotiable." "I feel sad because this group is claiming that Sabah is theirs.  Let me stress that there will be no compromise of our country's sovereignty and integrity," he said. Lease vs. transfer A look into the agreement, which was written in Arabic, entered into by then Sulu Sultanul Alam and the North Borneo Chartered Company on January 22, 1878 showed that different translations and interpretations may have caused the disagreement between the parties involved. The translated agreement, as included in the book "Philippine Claim to a Portion of North Borneo" published by the Institute of International Legal Studies, University of the Philippines Law Center in 2003, was specifically translated as "Grant by the Sultan of Sulu of a permanent lease covering his lands and territories on the island of Borneo." It also indicated in the body that Alam, on behalf of all heirs and successors, expresses the desire of all Datus to "lease, of [their] own free will and satisfaction" to the North Borneo Chartered Company "all territories and lands tributary to [them] on the mainland of the Island of Borneo." It also required the representatives of the company to pay Alam $5,000 annually. But another version of the agreement posted on Malaysia's State Attorney-General's Chambers website translated it as the "Grant by Sultan of Sulu of Territories and Lands on the Mainland of the Island of Borneo." In the body, it also indicated that Alam, with the "consent and advice" of Datus, "grant[s] and cede[s] of [his] own free and sovereign will" the said territories to the North Borneo Chartered Company. It also said the firm shall be required to pay the $5,000 as "compensation" for the "grant." The translation published by the UP Law Center and posted on the Malacañang website was translated by Prof. Harold C. Conklin in 1946, while the one being carried by the Malaysian government website was published in the book "Treaties and Engagements Affecting the Malay States and Borneo" edited by William Maxwell and William Gibson. — KBK, GMA News