March 9, 2013
Lahad Datu Incursion: Sabah Claim resurfaces due to Politics in the Philippines
UPDATED @ 12:30:35 PM 08-03-2013
By Ida Lim@http://www.themalaysianinsider.com
March 08, 2013
Proof showing that Sabah “clearly” belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu has caused Malaysia to be fearful of bringing the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or to the table for talks, a columnist for a Manila-based paper has claimed.
In an opinion piece titled “Irony: Malaysian-trained Sulu fighters”, Neal H. Cruz said both the Philippine and Malaysian governments could “persuade” the Filipino Muslim rebels in Sabah to leave the state that is part of Malaysia, by either entering into negotiations or going to the ICJ.
“That is for Malaysia to either agree to take the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim to Sabah to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or to negotiate with the Philippine government and the sultanate, with a definite date for the talks to start,” he wrote yesterday.
But he said Malaysia was fearful of taking either option, adding that the country was holding on to Sabah by “sheer force of arms”, possibly referring to Malaysia’s show of military muscle with its all-out strike on Tuesday against the estimated 200-odd Sulu gunmen who had intruded Sabah’s east coast over three weeks ago to press the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on the state.
“Why is Malaysia afraid to do either? Because historical and documentary evidence clearly prove that Sabah belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu.
“Malaysia is holding on to it by sheer force of arms, just like Hitler did in annexing neighbouring European countries and Tojo did in annexing neighbouring Southeast Asian countries during World War II,” he claimed in his column “As I See It” on the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s news portal.
Calling Sabah the “homeland of Sulu Muslims”, the columnist said that Malaysia should “return” Sabah to its “rightful ownlers for humanitarian reasons”, adding that the UN should step in before more people die in the clashes in there, which have already left 52 Sulu gunmen and eight Malaysian policemen dead.
Earlier in his column, he said that Sabah is not important to Malaysia, alleging that the federal government in Peninsular Malaysia was neglecting Sabah because of the state’s distance.
“But it is very important to the Filipinos of Sulu, to which it is very close. They need it for trade (there is now a shortage of food in Tawi-Tawi because of the fighting in Sabah) and for jobs and living space,” he said, referring to the Philippine islands Tawi-Tawi, which is near the Sabah east coast and whose residents reportedly buy food from Sabah.
Last Saturday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (left) from the Philippines’ Department of Justice reportedly said the government had not ruled out taking the Sulu group’s claim on Sabah to the ICJ, but was carefully studying the case as it did not want to strain its friendship with Malaysia.
The Sultanate of Sulu has laid claim to Sabah, saying it had merely leased North Borneo in 1878 to the British North Borneo Company for an annual payment of 5,000 Malayan dollars then, which was increased to 5,300 Malayan dollars in 1903.
Sabah, however, joined Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963, after which Malaysia continued paying an annual stipend of RM5,300 to the Sulu sultanate on the basis of the sultanate ceding the Borneo state.
Yesterday, the Sultanate of Sulu called for a ceasefire to the month-long battle in Sabah, promising to lay down their weapons and take a defensive stance if Malaysian security forces agreed to do the same.
But Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday rejected the call, saying that the Sulu militants must surrender unconditionally instead. Najib also highlighted the Cobbold Commission’s 1962 referendum in Sabah and Sarawak, where about two-thirds of the people supported the creation of Malaysia, thus exercising their right to self-determination.
Irony: Malaysian-trained Sulu fighters
There is a touch of irony in the fighting in Sabah where Malaysian forces, using eight fighter jets, laser-guided bombs, artillery and hundreds of troops, have failed to subdue a handful of Filipino Muslims from Sulu.
When the Moro National Liberation Front was formed to fight the Philippine government years ago, it was Malaysia who trained, in Sabah, MNLF fighters in guerrilla warfare. Now it is veteran MNLF fighters who are leading the Sulu force in fighting the Malaysians. Obviously, they learned their lessons well. In spite of the overwhelming advantage in men and ordnance, the Malaysians could not find the “cornered” followers of the Sultanate of Sulu in the jungles of Sabah which, as one veteran said, they know “like the back of their hands.”
There is one way the Philippine and Malaysian governments can persuade the Filipino Muslims to “go home.” That is for Malaysia to either agree to take the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim to Sabah to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or to negotiate with the Philippine government and the sultanate, with a definite date for the talks to start.
It is because of decades of being ignored by the Malaysian government and neglected by the Philippine government—including the “loss” of letters from the Sultan of Sulu to President Aquino on the Sabah claim—that the sultan was forced to take the drastic step. He wanted to force the issue. He hoped that when fighting erupts and lives are lost, international agencies like the United Nations may intervene and force Malaysia to negotiate or go to the ICJ. The lives of some of his followers lost in the fighting are a sacrifice to regain their homeland.
Why is Malaysia afraid to do either? Because historical and documentary evidence clearly prove that Sabah belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu. Malaysia is holding on to it by sheer force of arms, just like Hitler did in annexing neighboring European countries and Tojo did in annexing neighboring Southeast Asian countries during World War II.
Sabah is not important to Malaysia. In fact, it is being neglected by Kuala Lumpur because of the distance. But it is very important to the Filipinos of Sulu, to which it is very close. They need it for trade (there is now a shortage of food in Tawi-Tawi because of the fighting in Sabah) and for jobs and living space.
Not only because it is the homeland of Sulu Muslims, Malaysia should return it to its rightful owners for humanitarian reasons. The UN should intervene before more lives are lost.
The Jews waged decades of war, including terrorism, to regain their homeland, Israel, and succeeded. The Filipino Muslims hope they will be able to achieve the same feat. Years from now, the struggle of the Filipino Muslims will make good material for stories and movies, just like the struggle of the American Indians and the blacks exploited by the white immigrants from Europe.
My message to Mr. Cruz:
Sabahans have chosen to be in Malaysia since 1963. Sabah is certainly a part of Malaysia, and that is not subject to negotiations.Nor should it be a case for the International Court of Justice to adjudicate.
President Ninoy Aquino should formally drop this claim if he values relations with Malaysia. He should not succumb to domestic political pressure. Exercise leadership, and leave us alone. Aquino himself is inundated with internal problems which need his attention. –Din Merican