Sulu Sultanate wants dialogue in Brunei

by Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2013 04:51 PM | Updated as of Feb 26 2013 10:35 AM

Armed Filipinos to stay put in Sabah, says Sulu Sultanate's spokesman

PH asks Malaysia for another extension

MANILA - The Sultanate of Sulu appealed to the Philippine and Malaysian governments to hold a dialogue in a neutral country aimed at ending the standoff in Sabah, Malaysia.

Abraham Idjirani, the official spokesperson of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, said they have chosen Brunei as the place for the dialogue.

Idjirani said they chose Brunei for historical reasons. Before the year 1704, the Sultanate of Sulu was under the jurisdiction of the Sultan of Brunei. "They [Brunei] understand the situation," he said.

In 1950, then-Sulu Sultan Punjungan Kiram refused to receive from Malaysia the annual rental payment for Sabah until his death in 1983.

This is because the lease agreement was breached unilaterally in 1950 by the British government, which illegally altered and converted the payment of the lease from Hasil Patahunan to cession money. And then, in 1963, North Borneo, as the new State of Sabah, was illegally included into the new federation of Malaysia.

He said the Sultan of Sulu and his descendants have since been deprived of their right to live, work and exercise their sovereign rights over Sabah.

Idjirani said there are still no orders from Sultan Jamalul Kiram III for his men to leave Tanduh Village, Lahad Datu in Sabah.

They have sought the intervention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, asking the international body to protect the lives and safety of their 250 men and women holed up in Tanduh Village, Lahad Datu.

He said their aspiration is simply to live in peace in their ancestral home.

"Pag atakihin [sila], wala kami magawa kung 'di to defend ourselves," Idjirani said.

Idjirani admitted some of their men are armed. There are no children with the group, but there are women who cook the food for the more than 200 men in the village.

Idjirani said Sultan Kiram is thankful for President Aquino for sending a humanitarian ship, but said they hope Aquino understands what they are fighting for.

Based on the report of their men on the ground, Idjirani said the ship sent by the Philippine government has yet to reach Lahad Datu. He said it was stopped at the boundary of Philippines and Sabah for lack of authorization from the Malaysian government.

PH asks for another extension

Meantime, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario had another meeting today with the Malaysian ambassador to further discuss the Sabah standoff.

Hernandez also confirmed that the Philippines is once again attempting to request for an extension of the deadline for the Sulu Sultanate's group to leave Sabah until Tuesday.

The humanitarian ship sent by the Philippines to fetch supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu, who are currently holed up in Lahad Datu in Sabah, is now in Sibutu Island in Tawi-tawi.

On the ship are medical teams and social workers with food for the Filipinos.

Hernandez said the current plan is to bring the Filipinos to the border. But since none of them has expressed interest in coming home yet, Philippine authorities are attempting to request the Malaysian government to allow the ship to dock right on Lahad Datu.

Officials have also been sent to talk to the Kirams, but Hernandez does not want to identify them. He also expressed optimism that the issue will be resolved by tomorrow.

The DFA also heard of reports that there were shots fired in Lahad Datu yesterday, but Hernandez said, there are no confirmation to these reports yet. -- with a report from Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News