MANILA – Despite an appeal made by President Aquino, the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu will stay put in Sabah, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said.
"I have given order to them that they have to stay put," said the Sultan. "We will leave as long as there is an arrangement made."
Kiram, however, did not elaborate on the arrangement he would wish to have with the Malaysian government, but said he would want to "settle the claim."
Kiram added that "nobody would like to leave...even children, they say we will die here in our homeland."
The Sultan said he is ready for any arrest or legal charges that will be filed against him.
"I’m already 74, 75, old man go to jail, OK," he says.
Kiram also believes they did not violate any laws of the country, contrary to what the President said this morning.
"I always respect our Constitution, but it is their [Sulu Sultanate's] homeland, is that a violation?" asked the Sultan.
Royal Army funding
Meanwhile, Princess Fatima Kiram, the wife of the Sultan, denied insinuations somebody or some groups have been funding the activities of the Royal Army in its operation in Sabah.
"Hindi ko alam kung saan nila nakuha ‘yun, it’s voluntarily from their own pocket they went to Sabah, nobody financed them, kung meron man, hindi lang dapat 250 na tao ‘yun at hindi lang 30 ang armas noon," Fatima says.
The Kirams believe the President is not well-advised on this matter.
Fatima added President Aquino should realize that this is not just the family's fight over a piece of land, but a land that truly belongs to the Filipino people.
"The Sabah is the patrimony of the Filipino people, hindi namin inaangkin ito na amin lang," the Sultan's wife said.
Fatima is also saddened with the statement of the President that he still has to study the claim.
The Sultan’s wife said that since the 1960s, the Department of Foreign Affairs had already created an office for matters concerning North Borneo, yet the President is surprisingly not well briefed on this issue.
"I’m touched that the President does not know about this, there was a bureau for this in their office," she says.
In a statement of the Sultan, as read by daughter, Jaycel, Sultan Kiram assured that if an agreement is reached, all arms will be returned to the Philippines.
The Sultan pledged that his brother Datu Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and their followers will not initiate the violence, but said they are prepared to defend their loved ones and aspirations.
The Sultan said, through Jaycel: "Mr. President, what more proof do you want us to show that Sabah is ours? By the mere fact that Malaysia is paying us annually in the amount of 5,300 Malaysian Ringgit, is it not enough?"
They maintained that their continued stay in Lahad Datu is not a violent action but intended to secure and protect their history.
The Sultan said they are willing to sit down to discuss the matter.
"Is it hard to sit down in a square table and to diplomatically settle the issue?" the Kirams asked, "All we ask is for Malaysia to sit down with the Kirams and come up with a win-win solution".
The Sultanate Spokesman Abraham Idjirani said "they will stay there unless...something has been discussed thoroughly first."
Idjirani said this is not about having a hard-line stance but an emphasis to honor and dignity.
"Hindi ito pagmamatigas, this is not a hard-line stance, the emphasis here is honor, to retain honor among its (Sultanate) constituents," Idjirani said.
He added that the dialogue is important for them to explain to other members of the Sultanate Royal Army why they should leave Sabah.
Datu Raja Muda Kiram is reportedly insisting on staying in Lahad Datu.
Idjirani said they welcome the statement of President Aquino this morning, but they are not threatened by the statements of legal charges and investigations that will be conducted against them.
"If that is the process or a prize of our sacrifice, then that is what the law says," Idjirani said. "It will prove to the world the cause the Sultan is fighting for since the 14th century."
Law of succession
The Sultanate maintained that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is the rightful heir to the throne.
Two more claiming to be Sultans of Sulu suddenly surfaced today namely, Fuad Kiram and Muedzel Lail Kiram.
As explained by Idjirani, under the Law and Order of Succession, there are only two conditions on succession, first is that the Sultan of Sulu can only ascend to the throne if the bloodline is traceable to the first Sultan, and second, if he is the most senior among the successors.
Claimants Fuad and Muedzel, idjirani said, is nowhere near the line of successors.
"Fuad is seventh on the line among the would-be successor," he said, adding that Muedzel is farther in the list.
"For as long as there are the brothers and cousins from the paternal side, the nephews, like what other fellows are claiming, cannot be considered (for the throne)," Idjirani explained.
He believes that the Fuad and Muedzel are misrepresenting their claim and confusing the minds of the public, especially the non-Muslims, and they believe the two are instigators of external forces to create controversy.
Idjirani hopes that the government can enact a more beneficial way, especially for the Philippines, to solve the problem.
"If the 5 claimants of the West Philippine Sea can advocate for joint development, why can’t also Malaysia and Philippines, that’s a win-win solution," he said.
The Sulanate of Sulu maintains that this is not about the standoff, but about the claim on Sabah which they believe is rightfully owned by not just the Sultanate of Sulu, but of the Philippines as well.