Manila: Vice-President Jejomar Binay confirmed holding a meeting with Sultan Jamalul Kiram, whose brother and 300 followers occupied a town in Sabah two weeks ago to lay down their ancient and historical right to the land.
“I confirm meeting with Sultan Kiram. He explained to me their position and I listened to him. Then I reiterated my position of the Philippine government and renewed my appeal for sobriety. I emphasised that the parties should make all efforts to arrive at a peaceful resolution,” said Binay, also Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers’ Concerns.
Meanwhile, a woman relative of Sultan Kiram, a resident of Tanduo, Lahad Datu, in Sabah, was arrested on Monday. “She is my cousin. I was also told that other women relatives of ours will be arrested in Sabah,” Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram, said in an interview with DZBB.
“This is the beginning of the action. It represents the political attitude of Malaysia,” said Raja Muda.
In case the Malaysian forces attack the 235 members of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu, “we are ready to fight, we have arms,” said Raja Muda, but did not give details.
“This place belongs to us. We will stay here,” Raja Muda insisted.
At the same time, the humanitarian-ship that was sent by the Philippine government to Lahad Datu to pick up some members of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu has “already left because the women [who have joined the Royal Sultanate of Sulu] don’t want to return to Sulu,” said Raja Muda, adding, “Some seven women have joined our group from Sulu. They did not bring their children with them. But they don’t want to leave their husbands in Lahad Datu.”
He did not give details such as the time of the departure of the Philippine ship for southern Philippines.
In Manila, foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said the humanitarian ship has docked at noon off Sibutu, near Tawi Tawi, near Sabah, the area where a Philippine vessel can stay for the purpose of repatriating Filipino citizens.
The ultimate aim of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu is “to hold peace talks in Sabah, not in the southern Philippines,” said Raja Muda when asked why his group refuses to leave Lahad Datu,
It is the best way to assert the right of the claim of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, said Raja Muda, adding that Malaysian officials have already said they wanted to hold talks on this issue in Zamboanga, in the southern Philippines.
The decision of the Royal Sultanate is final, said Raja Muda, referring to his brother Sultan Jamalul Kiram who is based in Metro Manila’s Taguig.
Expressing concern for the safety of the Filipino-Muslims who have occupied Lahad Datu, Manila’s foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario said: “We are addressing the core issues they [Royal Sultanate] have raised. But we are after their safety.”
“We thank the Malaysian government for allowing the ship’s entry and their shared concern for the well-being of the civilians [who have occupied Lahad Datu],” Philippine ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malay said in a statement.
Last Sunday, members of the Sulu Royal Army allegedly fired shots to stop their supporters from leaving Tanduo village, Lahad Datu town in Sabah, an unnamed Filipino diplomat told the Inquirer.
But the Malaysian forces did not fire back, said the source.
Last Friday, the Philippine government asked the Malaysian government for a four-day extension for Kiram’s group to leave Lahad Datu, the deadline of which was to end on Tuesday.
Followers of the Kiram family occupied Tanduao village in Lahad Datu last February 9.
Malaysia is paying the heirs of the sultanate 5,300 ringgit (Dh6,280) a year, in recognition of the rent paid to them by the British East India Company during the British colonial rule in Sabah from 1761.
In 1658, the Sultan of Brunei ceded the eastern part of Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu, for the latter’s assistance in quelling enemies there. At the time, the Sultan of Brunei and Sultan of Sulu were owners of Sabah.
The British colonials ceded North Borneo when Sabah merged with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form the Federation of Malaysia.
In 1965, former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal renewed the claim of the Philippine government to Sabah, following complaints from members of the Sultanate of Sulu.
This claim was not enforced because of the formation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Members of the Sultanate of Sulu said they would pursue their claim over a portion of Sabah since the government has given it up.