MANILA – The sultanate of Sulu on Wednesday reiterated anew that it is not being funded by forces out to sabotage the peace efforts of the Philippine government in Mindanao.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the sultanate, said they could easily send thousands of followers to the disputed Malaysian territory of Sabah if they are funded by forces out to jeopardize the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"Kung may nag-finance, bakit 'di pa tayo magpadala ng sampung libo na kung saan kayang-kaya ng Sultanate of Sulu?" Idjirani told dzMM.
"Ngunit makikita niyo na walang nag-finance dahil ang dumating sa Sabah ay 235 lamang. Na-delay pa sila ng sampung araw sapagkat inipon pa nila ang pera nila para makabili ng gasolina at kanilang babauning pagkain papunta doon."
Idjirani said the sultanate only has behind it Allah, the truth, the Filipino people and government officials supportive of its cause.
President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said he believes there are people behind the sultanate's move.
"Given the points that they are not in a very good financial condition, and we are also told that there are quite a large amount of money involved in ferrying people from Tawi-Tawi to Malaysia. Who is funding them?" Aquino said.
The sultan's followers have been holed up in the town of Lahad Datu for more than two weeks already. They are led by crown prince Datu Raja Muda Agbimmudin Kiram.
The group, citing numerous historical accounts and rental receipts from the Malaysian government, said the Sultanate of Sulu is the rightful owner of the land.
Despite Aquino's appeal and the Malaysian government's threat to end the standoff soon, the sultanate said its followers will not leave Sabah until a concrete agreement between them and the Malaysian government is reached.
The sultanate is asking the Philippine government to intercede in the agreement, which will recognize the claim of the sultanate over Sabah.
"Ang intensyon ni Sultan Jamalul Kiram III at ng buong sultanate, di ito pagmamatigas. Ngunit gusto lang magkaroon ng tinatawag ng trust ang sultanate ang Sulu. Sapagkat gaya ng sinabi ko, ang usapang ito ay mahabang proseso. So sana naman the intercession of our government will not be interpreted as a hard demand of the sultatane of Sulu," Idjirani said.
Idjirani also asked President Aquino to expedite his study of the Sabah claim. This, as Aquino on Tuesday asked for more time to review the long-standing claim given its complexities.
"Overstudied na ang Sabah issue. Ang kinakailangan dito, magkaroon ng panig ang sultatane of Sulu. Kapag unilateral act lang, 'di natin maisusulong ang Sabah claim ng komprehensibo," he said.
"Kapag sila-sila lang ang mag-aaral dito, walang mangyayari. Dapat magkaoroon ng team ng gobyerno team ng [sultanate ng] Sulu. Noong 1989 winithdraw na ni Sultan Jamalul Kiram III ang karapatan ng [gobyerno ng] Pilipinas para pag-usapan ang Sabah claim. Kailangan ire-negotiate ng gobyerno ang authority."