Malaysia's rent: P69,700/yearly for all of Sabah?
MANILA – The Crown Prince of the Sultanate of Sulu on Thursday said he and his followers will not leave Lahad Datu town in Sabah, Malaysia until the right to ownership of the territory is resolved.
Speaking to ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda, Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram, said he will not leave Sabah despite orders by the Malaysian government to leave the town by Friday.
"I want to live in our place. Hindi kami aalis hanggang hindi ma-resolve ang issue. Gusto namin maisoli ang Sabah,” he told ABS-CBN News.
Kiram said he and his men are subsisting on root crops such as sweet potatoes and bananas after Malaysian authorities imposed a food blockade to drive them out.
"Hindi pinapasok yung kakabayan natin sa pagbigay ng support," he said.
He said his men are ready to defend themselves if forced to leave the area.
The group of 100 armed men has refused to move from the village they have occupied for nearly a week, despite pleas from both the Malaysian and Philippine governments to return to the Sulu archipelago on the Philippine side of the sea border.
Malaysian police armed with machine guns have surrounded the village in a palm-oil plantation area.
Malaysian officials said over the weekend that the group's demands would not be met and that the men would be deported soon, without specifying how.
P69,700 for the whole of Sabah?
In the same interview, Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the sultanate, said the Malaysian government is merely posturing when it demanded that Kiram and his men leave Sabah.
He presented documents to show the sultanate's claim to the land including a check for P69,700 paid by the Embassy of Malaysia in the Philippines to Atty. Ulka Ulama, who represents 4 of the heirs of the sultanate.
“This is a check paid for by the Embassy of Malaysia in the Philippines. Ang bayad ho ay equivalent to 69,700 pesos, for an area covering [nearly] 30,000 square miles,” he said.
The Sabah territory was once controlled by the Sultanate of Sulu, given as a gift by the Sultanate of Brunei for Sulu's role in quelling a rebellion.
In 1878, the Sulu sultanate leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company, which then transferred the territory to Malaysia in 1963.
The Philippine government in 1962, then under President Diosdado Macapagal, was given the legal authority by the sultanate to handle negotiations on the claims.
From then on Kuala Lumpur pays an annual rent of 5,300 ringgit ($1,600) to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.
Idjirani, however, said the right given to the Philippine government to negotiate on its behalf was revoked in 1989 by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
He also noted that Malaysia does not want too much attention on the issue because “what was transferred to Malaysia was not a sovereign title.”
“These are lease rights obtained by the British North Borneo Company and then transferred by British crown in 1963 to the federal government of Malaysia,” he said.
He also presented a document showing the payment of P73,040.77 to Kiram on April 16, 2003 as “cession money to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu for the year 2002.”
"It just shows that we have historic and legal rights to the territory,” he said.
Idjirani appealed to President Aquino to help resolve the standoff in a peaceful manner.
“We thank the President for his serious concern to resolve the standoff but we appeal also for his Excellency for his utmost understanding on the position of Sultan Jamal Kiram III. The statement articulated by the Raja Udam,” he said.
“We also appeal to the President, being a Filipino citizen of this country, to at least appeal to the Malaysian government to provide the services of these people in the community so that their human rights will be protected,” he said.