ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 15, 2013) – Philippine military officials remain silent over the daring intrusion of dozens of Filipinos into the eastern Malaysian state Sabah where authorities surrounded them and negotiating for their peaceful surrender.
Reports said the men are members of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo and Moro National Liberation Front, and that some of them were armed, who are active in the campaign to reclaim the Malaysian oil-rich island which is part of the Sultanate.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs has the sole authority to give a statement about that,” Army Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
Both the Philippine Embassy in Kula Lumpur and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila have not issued any official statement about the situation in Sabah’s Lahad Datu town where up to 100 Filipinos, many of them wearing military uniforms, are holding out.
But Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez was quoted by Philippine media as saying that they are still trying to ascertain and complete the facts of the Sabah incident.
The Sultanate of Sulu obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on Borneo Island. The Sultanate of Sulu was a Muslim state that ruled over much of the islands off the Sulu Sea. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to North Borneo, now known as Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north.
The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. Malaysia, which is currently brokering peace talks between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, still pays a token to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu around 6,300 ringgits each year.
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said they will do their best to prevent any bloodshed. Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Ismail Omar and Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the Filipinos arrived in speedboats and that police and military forces have encircled the men.
“In terms of strength, we have the upper hand in combat power to arrest them, but the government opts for negotiation to break the stalemate so that they leave peacefully to southern Philippines,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying by the Malaysian news agency Bernama.
“We have more and less identified the group. But let the police negotiate with them and hopefully, it will bear fruit and succeed. This is because they cannot go anywhere, they have been surrounded… They have no choice and have to find a solution,” he added.
The intrusion occurred just as former Malaysian leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, also Pakatan Rakyat de facto leader, proposed that Sabah be granted autonomy.
Sultan Muhammad Fuad Kiram I, the Sultan of Sulu and the Sultan of Sabah, said Malaysia illegally occupied Sabah. “Sabah is still the property and sovereign patrimony of the Sultan of Sulu and the Royal Sultanate of Sulu to this day,” he said in the website of the Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu which is accessible in this URL http://www.royalsulu.com.
He said the Sultanate supports a free and independent Sabah. “That a free and independent Sabah will be under our reign and our heirs and successors according to law of succession as the Reigning Sultan of Sabah,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)