Younger brother to ‘take over’
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu passed away Sunday morning.
Kiram, 75 - who described himself as the "Sultan of Sulu" after a group of islands in the Mindanao - passed away at a government hospital but remained defiant to the end, his wife, Fatima Kiram said.
"The sultan died a poor but honorable man," she told AFP, adding that his fight to reclaim Sabah as part of the sultanate's territory would continue.
"His last words to all his brothers and followers were, 'It has already begun. Let us continue it for the good of our people. Do not abandon our people,'" she quoted him as saying.
She said, however, this did not mean renewed violence, adding that the family was willing to enter into negotiations with Malaysia.
In a separate interview with radio dzMM, Sultanate of Sulu spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Kiram died at 4:42 a.m. at the Philippine Heart Center, where the sultan had also been battling kidney problems.
Kiram’s daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, said her father had not shown that he was in pain.
“Kahit na nahihirapan siya, hindi mo makikita… Magpapakita siya na malakas,” Jacel said in an interview with radio dzMM Sunday.
Jacel revealed that her father has been undergoing dialysis as some of his internal organs had been affected.
“Na-confine siya noong Thursday. Ida-dialysis lang, pero ang baba ng blood pressure at nag-drop ang sugar level, kaya dinala sa Heart Center,” she said.
Kiram’s remains have been brought to their home in Maharlika Village, Taguig City, but the family plans to fly him to Sulu, where he will be buried.
If they cannot bring the Sultan to Sulu, he may be buried before 3 p.m. today, following Muslim tradition that a dead relative must be laid to rest within 24 hours of death.
Fight for Sabah
Jacel said that even though her father is gone, they still plan to continue fighting for Sabah.
“Yung iniwan niya sa atin, we have to continue fighting for it, because it’s for the Filipino people,” she said. “Ang gusto niya, tayo na lang ang magpatuloy ng laban natin for the Sabah claim.”
In February, at least 100 armed followers of Kiram, who claimed to be the hereditary chief of the "Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo," entered Sabah to press his claim on the Malaysian state.
After the group refused to lay down their arms Malaysian security forces moved against them, resulting in deadly clashes that left dozens dead and sent the invaders fleeing.
The Sultan of Sulu once ruled over islands that are now parts of the southern Philippines, as well as Sabah.
However the sultanate lost control of Sabah to European colonial powers in the 18th Century. The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.
Kiram and his family, as heirs to the sultanate, still receive annual compensation from Malaysia -- the equivalent of about $1,700 -- but he had previously said this amount was far too low.
Aside from Kiram, there are other descendants of the sultanate who also claim to be the true sultans of Sulu.
Fatima Kiram said her husband's younger brother, Bantillan, would take over as sultan, stressing he had "the legal authority". – reports from Agence France-Presse; ANC; Henry Atuelan and Dennis Datu, dzMM