Intruders use History to make History

March 4, 2013

Intruders use History to make History

by Farish A. Noor @

COMPLICATED: It’s a dangerous path to follow when groups make claims to territories based on centuries-old claims

farish-a-noorTHE stand-off in Lahad Datu has reached a violent peak and is not over yet. From day one, we were confronted with a complicated situation to handle, for this was not an attack by another country, but rather an intrusion into the territory of one country by citizens of another, who argued that they had a historical basis to justify their actions.

For academics, this aspect of the event was the most complex, namely the way in which history has been brought into play by those who claim that they have a right to Sabah.

This was an instance when history was blatantly marshalled to the aid of politics, and where historical claims were being used to further political claims in the present.

Many historians would insist that this is a dangerous path to follow, for the simple reason that it leads to an infinite regress that cannot bring either side to a happy resolution. Why?

The reason is simple enough: when anyone reads history with the intention of excavating details to serve their own agendas and to prove their point, another person or interested party can do the same, too.

History is a narrative without a full stop, in the sense that history is constantly being written as we speak and is constantly being revised and appraised, too.

Sulu army

For someone to claim to have rights over Sabah on account of documents in his possession is one thing, but let us not forget that centuries before that, Sabah and Sarawak also came under the dominion of an even older kingdom, namely Brunei.

And reading of records from the 16th century and earlier will show that it was Brunei that held sway across the northern coast of Borneo.

Likewise, the patchy and convoluted history of Southeast Asia would show us that much of the region has been contested in the past: Singapore was part of Johor, while the Siamese kingdom once held power over Kelantan, Kedah and Terengganu. But does this mean that Malaysia can claim Singapore? Or that Thailand can claim the northern half of Peninsular Malaysia? Or that Brunei can claim Sarawak and Sabah? Of course not.

The reason why the modern-day postcolonial states of Southeast Asia do not embark on such claims is that they are all nation-states that behave as responsible actors on the stage of international politics.


States are expected to behave responsibly, and to abide by certain norms of conduct. Walking into a neighbouring country and claiming territory is not an example of what “responsible conduct” means, and when Iraq did that to Kuwait, the entire international community, including all the states of Southeast Asia condemned it, and rightfully so.

What complicated matters in Sabah is that those who have made the claims on Sabah were not representative of the government and people of the Philippines. (Indeed, it could be said that they were an embarrassment.)

The question is how does a state, in this case Malaysia, deal with non-state actors such as those who entered Lahad Datu? Here is where diplomacy on the high and low level comes in: to work with the Philippine government to end this impasse that involves some of their citizens behaving in a manner that is jeopardising the good bilateral relations Malaysia and Philippines enjoys, notably after Malaysia’s role in helping to bring about the peace deal to the restive south of the Philippines.

Malaysian would be wise to be wary of such claims in the future. For there is nothing to prevent others from making similar claims, regardless of the damage they do to themselves and to the bilateral ties between the two countries.

In the long run, however, all the states of Southeast Asia have to realise that whether we like it or not, we live in an age of nation-states.

Nation-states may be clumsy, complicated objects; but they are in fact the only tools we have to deal with the real-life problems and challenges of governance today. But nation-states are also far more responsible when it comes to respecting borders, policing frontiers and dealing with other states.

Nation states must and will continue to respect and abide by internationally-recognised rules and norms, including the law of boundaries. It would be hopeless for us to dwell on the past and lament the loss of historical standing.

For as was mentioned earlier, almost every country in ASEAN can go aboutAsean making historical claims if they wanted to. But this will not bring us any closer to ASEAN integration, and may instead fuel feelings of resentment and hyper-nationalist pride instead.

In this decade to come, all the countries of ASEAN will have to deal with the real challenge of waning American power and the rising economic clout of China in our region.

This is a real issue that begs for real answers, and that is what ASEAN should be focusing on. For the sake of the region and the future generation of ASEAN citizens, ASEAN should take the present arrangement of nation-states as a given, and move on. History may remind us of mistakes and errors of the past, but it will not and cannot provide a magic pill to solve our existential angst of today.

17 thoughts on “Intruders use History to make History

  1. Whether it is a nation or non-state actor (s) which violates our territorial integrity and sovereignty, we have the right to get them out forcibly. Playing politics with Lahad Datu is an irresponsible act in my book. That is why I am amazed that our leaders were not decisive in dealing with the Lahad Datu stand-off. Their action will tempt others to test our resolve in future. –Din Merican

  2. They blame Anwar for everything in Malaysia. He is also an agent extraordinaire for the US, Israel, etc. One can assume that he also started WWI by assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914. As far as I know, Anwar was born in Cheruk Tok Kun near Bukit Mertajam on August 10,1947. Not only intruders but also politicians in UMNO and their highly paid MSM journalists, spinners and bloggers use history for their political ends.

  3. Well, isn’t this what Hamas and their supporter claim with Israel? The more fundamental fact is that while the law must pursue justice to its utmost, it does not owe justice regardless of circumstances. The People of Sabah have not wanted to be ruled by a monarchy long before Sabah was formed. If there is legitimate claim at all to the Sulu Sultanate, its simply compensation and even then its very dubious how much given that they have poor track record as administrator, developers, economist.

  4. Semper Fi, do you know what is happening to Bean? He is quiet when the rest of us are excited about Lahad Datu. Not a word from him these last few days. CLF too has gone away to Tawi Tawi.–Din Merican

  5. Hak55,
    You mean just Russia & not the entire world….Are you kidding?

    Hamas wanted the destruction of Yisrael. Again, heck, why are we embroilled in other people business when we can’t settle our own?

    Many people blamed Anwar. Including one Penang lang who went to Aussie land (ktemoc aka KT Mok). It has something do with KT’s cat was molested by Anwar nong nong time ago in Cherok Tok Kun

    Really hah? What’s he doing there? Snorkelling?

  6. Everybody got it wrong…the JOKE making the rounds is the real motive is to “rescue” the Leader who absconded with several hundred millions of their hard earned money.


  7. why then do i (with 0.1% patani sulatante dna) procastinate to claim kelate, ‘ganu, kdah, p’lis and even melaka as ‘tanoh ambo’? heck, we even have MasBunga as historical proof than ‘those states “liberated” by a Brit colonial and given to malaya are illegal!

    I wanna be the next Zoltan of Patani zoltanate and i am bring 200 coyote dancers ( across Sg Golok) to claim my rightful inheritance!

  8. Tun Mahathir memberitahu beberapa,orang yang berjumpa dia di Perdana Foundation yang Najib membuat kesilapan besar kerana tidak mendengar nesehat yang di beri kapada dia supaya tidak meneruskan dengan RCI di Sabah yang cuba mempersoalkan pemberian warga negara kapada ramai orang Sulu yangbtelah lama menetap di Sabah.
    Mereka anggap kenapa perlu di ungkin kembali pemberian taraf warga negara itu kapada mereka dan ada khabar angin yang mengatakan kerajaan akan menarek balek taraf kerayaatan yang di beri kapada mereka.
    Najib ,oleh kerana hendak mengambil hatimorang Khadazan dan Cina Sabah telah bersetuju mengadakan RCI.
    Ini merupakan puncha sabenar kenapa Sultan Sulu mahu menuntut samula Sabah dari Malaysia.
    Najib juga telah tidak menunaikan janji untok membayar ganti rugi kapada Sultan Sulu sacara total sabanyak $5.3 juta kapada Sultan Sulu,walau mereka telah setuju dan menanda tangani perjanjian dengan Kerajaan Malaysia yangbtelah di rundingkan oleh Dr Ibrahim,Duta Malaysia di Philipine .
    Najib juga telah mengenepi MNFL samasa berunding menandatangani perjanjian perdamian dengan MILF.Hj Murad dari MILF hanya menguasai kawasan selatan Mindano tapi Mashuari dari MLF menguasai kawasan kepulauan Sulu ,Jolo dan Tawi tawi.

  9. History is our mirrors, based on facts. Rootless, if you forgot your history. Claims thru conquer ignore the history.

    The troubles are due to Asean countries had been conquered and colonized by the foreign powers from the West: British, American and Japanese included, etc who forced Asean signed unequal treaties or agreements, the unfair, unjust, divide and rule canny ways that have messed up the whole things in the region.

    Waning Americana, gone the Britannica, Nipponica are for better world in Asian century led by China’s rise.

  10. Dato, I have gone to the White House to see Barry, to ask if he could send the same SEAL team that took out Osama, to take out this Sulu Sultan and put an end to the feud once and for all. I’m sick of it.

  11. Dear Dato Din, tell me whether I’m right in assuming that when chaos rules Sabah ( which is stating now ) will Mageran be implemented and Sabah as an electoral state taken out of context,?? What’s a few deaths btwn friends,it’s either he loses Sabah completely during GE13 and lose his mandate to rule Malaysia or (1)scare the shit out of Sabahan,(2) To maintain peace, Marshall Law must be declared for the general safety of Sabahans. (3) he is seen kiss and licking Taib’s arse to ensure that Sarawak delivers enough seats to secure victory for BN in GE13,Taib need not retire after all,remember when he twisted Taib’s arm to announce that Taib will retire after 2 years b4 the last Sarawak election and Taib checkmate Najib when right after votes were counted and Taib’s party were declared winners,didn’t he sneak out in the middle of the night to get the Governor to proclaim him chief Minister,check mating Najib,who was still blurr and dimb at the same time ( still is and still will be ) the Nasi Kankang that he Rosmah gave him had an extra ouff to it,more potent when you farted at the same time,pheww!!! I,ve seen friend who had been administered Nasi Kankang,but never to Najib’s level.My Dear Rosie,you the Man..Oouch!!

  12. Bolehland’s Political Leaders and gomen had 50 years to “Assist, Guide and Upgrade Sabah & Sarawak states including ALL their citizens…

    “UMNO/BN’s Fixed Deposits” should have been “Nutured – promote and sustain the growth and development of: nurturing hopes…”

    Well it turned out to be the “Ketuanan Umnoputra’s Colonisation and Exploitation” of Sabah’s & Sarawak’s Natural Resources including ALL their citizens for 50 years.

    All the “Overconfidence, Riak, etc…” has come to his sad ending…

    Just to share this…

    Breaking the Silence – Bilderberg Exposed –

    Indonesia–Malaysia Stand-off – “…In fact, Bilderbergers at the lounge table all agreed that such a conflict might well give them an excuse to garrison the disputed area with UN “Peacekeepers” and thus ensure their ultimate control over the exploitation of this treasure, meaning untapped oil reserves…”


    “Malaysia has been named among 54 countries which have helped the US’s Central Intelligence Agency by hosting secret torture cells and participating in illegal deportation of detainees to and from US custody without any legal process…”

    You be the judge.


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