Malaysian news reports only 'black propaganda,' says Idjirani
MANILA -- A spokesman for Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his armed followers in Sabah denied Malaysian news reports that their "royal army" has been "totally defeated."
In a press conference, Sulu sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said he received a text message from Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram saying all members of his group are accounted for, and that they are not controlled by Malaysian security forces.
He also dismissed the stories of their defeat coming from Malaysia as "black propaganda" against the sultanate's followers.
"Nakita natin dito sa text ni Raja Muda [Agbumuddin Kiram] na nandoon pa sila. Walang katotohanan na napulbos [na sila]," Idjirani said.
He also hit Malaysian authorities for not allowing Philippine media to cover the ongoing standoff in Sabah.
"Bakit ayaw papasukin ang media? Iisa lang ang reaksyon natin diyan: Meron silang tinatago," he said.
He slammed the leadership of Malaysia for not exercising maximum tolerance in dealing with Kiram's group.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had met with Malaysian officials to make a last ditch plea for maximum tolerance in dealing with the Filipinos holed out in Sabah. He, however, admitted the last minute plea fell on deaf ears.
Idjirani said: "The teaching of our faith ay magkaroon ng maximum tolerance. Ang taong 'di marunong magbigay ng maximum tolerance ay dapat katakutan natin."
Malaysian troops launched an attack on the Filipino group on Tuesday, trying to end a standoff on Borneo island after violence in recent days that killed at least 30 people.
The operation to take over an area occupied by about 180 Filipinos, dozens of them armed, began at 7 a.m. (2300 GMT Monday), a spokesman for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said. The government sent seven army battalions to the area in eastern Sabah state on Monday to reinforce police.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he ordered the assault in Kampung Tanduo village Tuesday morning after followers of Kiram showed no intention to leave Sabah.
Still open to talks
Idjirani on Tuesday once again appealed to Malacañanag to "sit down and talk about this problem."
"We are appealing upuan natin ito. Walang panalo dito... Kung tayo lahat ay magkakaisa, upuan ang problema, 'yun lang ang way [para maresolve ito]."
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda earlier said they have done everything possible to prevent bloodshed in Sabah, but the followers of Kiram “chose the path of violence.”
“I think everyone knows that we have done everything possible and continue to do everything possible to peacefully end the standoff. Unfortunately, the position taken by the Kiram family is a position that leads down to violence. It really defies logic,” he said in a press conference.
Lacierda refused to comment directly if Kiram's armed followers in Sabah are now on their own, noting only that the “fate of the 180 lies with those who continue a defiant stand.”