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New Sulu sultan renews call on Aquino to help reclaim Sabah

Esmail Kiram II, the newly installed Sultan of Sulu, has renewed their family's call on the government to pursue the reclamation of Sabah island in Malaysia.

“In the pursuit of our historic rights and legal claim, we urge the Aquino administration to support the Sultanate of Sulu in its claim over North Borneo (Sabah) by historic and moral obligations," Kiram II, who replaced the late Jamalul Kiram III, said in a press statement Tuesday.

In February last year, Kiram III sent some 200 of his armed followers to Lahad Datu, Sabah, to assert their claim over the island, resulting in the deaths of more than 50 people and imprisonment of several others by Malaysian authorities.

Kiram III died in October last year at the age of 75.

The Sultanate of Sulu has been claiming that based on historical facts, Sabah belongs to them and has only been leased to Malaysia's British North Borneo Company in 1878.

“Owing to historic and legal facts, it is now incumbent on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to do what he has to do if our president reckons the inhabitants of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Zamboanga peninsula and Palawan as citizens of the Republic of the Philippines,” Kiram II said.

Kiram II also called on the government to extend assistance to the undocumented Filipinos, mostly from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, who are now being apprehended by the Malaysian government.

“They are summarily rounded up and to be deported because of absence of legal document, they deserve the assistance and protection of the Philippine Government,” he said.

Kiram II also called on international organizations to help facilitate the speedy resolution of the Sabah dispute.

“As we pursue to recover possession of North Borneo, we are appealing to the United Nations to take the necessary preferential attentions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict to avoid further bloodshed and likewise to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to help us in our claim,” he said.

In an interview with some television reporters, Sulu Sultanate spokesperson Abraham Idjirani said that while they aim to reclaim Sabah in a peaceful way, the Sultanate might have no choice but to again send troops to the island  just like what they did last year.

“That is the possibility, if cessation of hostilities will not be resolved,” he said.

At a press briefing in Malacañang Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma said the government is open to the call for dialogue on Sabah claims.

“Ang atin pong posisyon diyan ay isang posisyon ng pagiging bukas sa dialogue at willingness to talk dahil sila naman po ay mamamayang Pilipino at habang ang kanilang sinusulong ay ayon sa batas, wala naman po tayong suliranin na makipag-ugnayan at makipagtalakayan sa sa kanila,” Coloma said adding that the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia is always ready to assist Filipinos needing assistance. — Elizabeth Marcelo/KBK, GMA News