MANILA, Philippines - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will not be attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Brunei next week, diplomatic sources said yesterday.
Najib dissolved parliament on April 3, paving the way for fresh elections next month.
The 59-year-old Najib, who took office in 2009, is facing voters for the first time as leader of the 13-party coalition.
A ranking official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Najib will not attend the summit.
“We understand he is not attending,” the official told The STAR.
The DFA said on Wednesday that President Aquino and Prime Minister Najib have no scheduled bilateral meeting during the summit in Brunei on April 24 to 25 and that the Sabah claim would not be discussed by the two leaders.
The sultanate of Sulu said yesterday that the Philippines and Malaysia will “covertly” discuss the Sabah claim of its heirs during the ASEAN summit.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the heirs of the sultanate, said the Sabah standoff has now become a regional issue that the Philippines and Malaysia and the rest of the ASEAN members could not afford to ignore.
Idjirani said yesterday that despite the pronouncement of the DFA that the Sabah claim will not be raised by the Philippines during the ASEAN summit, the Sultanate of Sulu believes that Philippine and Malaysian officials would discuss the issue “covertly.”
“It will be discussed. But it will be done covertly. The Philippines and Malaysia do not want to alarm the other member countries about the seriousness of the issue,” said Idjirani.
The crisis started when supporters of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu forced a standoff with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu, Sabah last February.
Malaysian forces later launched air strikes and ground assault that allegedly killed several Filipino gunmen and Malaysian soldiers.
Many Filipinos residing in the affected areas in Sabah have evacuated and returned to Tawi-Tawi and other parts of Mindanao.
Idjirani said Indonesia would be one of the ASEAN member countries that would be alarmed if the standoff in Sabah is not resolved.
“Sabah is a neighboring territory of Kalimantan. (Indonesia) does not want to be alarmed by the situation. Malaysia and Indonesia are neighbors. Indonesia may appeal to Malaysia or the Philippines to take things slow,” Idjirani added.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said President Aquino and Razak have no scheduled bilateral meeting during the summit in Brunei on April 24 to 25. With Mike Frialde