King Ghaz and the Question of the “Sabah Claim”

March 30, 2013

King Ghaz and the Question of the “Sabah Claim”

Hamzahby Dato Hamzah Abdul Majid*

Fast forward to a morning in July 1962, I was reporting for duty at the Ministry of External Affairs (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Wisma Putra). The Ministry was located at the (then) Selangor State Secretariat Building (now Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad), directly opposite  the (Royal) Selangor Club.  It shared the  building with the Treasury and a few other government departments.

Meeting King Ghaz (The Boss) of Foreign Affairs and his Professionals

I reported to the Assistant Secretary (Administration) Encik Hanafiah Ahmad (later Chief of Tabung Haji and now Tan Sri). A slight gentleman with glasses, he was friendly and helpful. With all the formalities completed, Encik Hanafiah took me to YM Tengku Ngah Mohamed, the Deputy Secretary of Ministry.

Ghazali ShafieThe pipe smoking Tengku Ngah informed me that I would be assigned to the Ministry’s Political Division reporting to my immediate superior, Principal Assistant Secretary (Political Division) Raja Aznam Raja Ahmad (later Tan Sri), a well- educated Malay aristocrat with impeccable manners.

Raja Aznam briefed me on the role of the Ministry and its structure, Right at the top was the Prime Minister (Tengku Abdul Rahman) and concurrently  Minister of External Affairs. The top  Diplomatic Service Officer was the Permanent Secretary, Encik Muhammad Ghazali Shafie.

Raja Aznam took me to the Permanent Secretary’s Office where I was introduced to the redoubtable Matthew Josef, Personal Assistant to the Boss. Josef looked at me and said, “The Permanent Secretary is expecting you. Come in, he will see you now, Good Luck.

With that he took me into the Boss’ spacious wood-panel office. Directly in front of me were a set of sofa and 2 deep armchairs. To my left was a large somewhat semi-circular desk. Behind the desk was the Man himself. I recognised him at once. The same ear of a man that I met five years earlier in the Radio Malaya studio–in command, confident, even arrogant.

He then asked me if I knew that we had a diplomatic issue with Indonesia and the Philippines  over our intention to invite North Borneo and Sarawak  to form Malaysia. I told him only from I read in the newspapers. Again that glare. He snapped, “then, write me a brief summary of how you understand the situation…Get to work.”

Zainal Abidin Sulong and Jack de Silva

Raja Aznam introduced me to Zainal Abidin Sulong (later Tan Sri) who hadZainal_Abidin_Sulong just returned from a posting in the United Nations, New York. Zainal was an excellent office mate–well informed, calm, hardworking and with a sense of humour. He was always busy drafting. From time to time, the Boss would barge into the room and growl instructions to him.

Zainal (left)  would slowly stand up. listen patiently and, when the Boss left, quietly resume his work. He was widely liked and respected. His knowledge of the personalities involved in North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia was encyclopedic, and the Boss depended heavily on him.  Next to the Boss, I would say Zainal was to play an exceedingly important role in the formation of Malaysia.

In the next room was Jack de Silva, a Catholic and strongly anti-Marxist. He  had served as First Secretary  in our High Commission in London. Articulate, gregarious, chain smoking, Jack was a hard driving officer with a mercurial temperament and a prolific drafter of documents and reports. I got my ‘sea legs’ in the ministry while sharing the small office with Zainal.

Tunku’s Singapore Statement on the Formation of Malaysia

On May 27, 1961, the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had made a historic statement in Singapore proposing the formation of Malaysia. The (then) Federation of Malaya was intent on inviting British North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak to join in and from a new nation, Malaysia.

Initially, the Philippine government did not react. But after the election of Diosdado Macapagal as president in December 1961 the “Sabah Claim” emerged as a factor. It had been on the “back burner” for a while, as it was an issue only between the Philippine and British governments.

The  “Sabah Claim”

Now with the formation of Malaysia becoming reality, the clamour in the Philippine media grew stronger. The momentum built up quickly, and emotions morphed into policy.

MacapagalIndonesia, headed by President Sukarno regarded North Borneo and Sarawak as part of Indonesian Kalimantan and claimed to be the rightful heir when the British finally withdrew.

Thus Sukarno and Macapagal joined forces in opposition to the Tunku’s proposal. Macapagal (left) hoisted a Philippine “claim” on Sabah and Sukarno vowed to “ganyang” (crush) Malaysia.

Both Indonesia and the Philippines regarded the idea of Malaysia as a “Neo-colonialist plot”. They claimed that the British no longer had any moral authority to hold on to the two colonies and were using the concept of Malaysia to perpetuate their influence in the region.

The Boss  was the main figure in the gathering storm, helping PrimeTun Razak with Tunku Minister and his illustrious Deputy, Tun Abdul Razak, and tasked to design and implement a strategy to bring about the formation of Malaysia.

A team of competent and dedicated officers in the ministry was assigned to assist the Boss. They did a Herculean task of keeping in touch with events and developments in North Borneo and Sarawak, in the United Nations,in our neigbouring countries, and among our allies.  It was a small but effective and ably led team.

Sometime in April, 1963, the Boss told me that there would be a meeting of top diplomatic officials of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines at the Padre Faura (the Philippine Foreign Ministry) in Manila. He would lead the Malaysian Delegation and I was to attend it as a member.

Bertie TallalaThe Boss said, “You can stay with Bertie (now Dato Albert Tallala). You know Bertie, don’t you? I think you both the same University (in Dublin). Bertie (left) had graduated the year before I joined.

On the morning of the meeting, the Boss, Ambassador Zaiton Ibrahim Ahmad, First Secretary Hashim Sam-Latiff were greeted by Pete Angora Aragon, Chief of Protocol at the Padre Faura and taken to the reception room where Philippine Undersecretary Salvador P. Lopez and the Indonesian First Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Suwito Kusumowidagdo were waiting. The three men greeted one another warmly. Lopez was the very epitome of Philippine charm and bonhomie and Dr Kusumo was all smiles. Each diplomat tried to project an air of earnest amity.

Right of Self Determination

This meeting was in every sense historic. It was the first time that the three adversary countries actually sat down at the official level to try to solve their problems diplomatically and avoid a military conflict. From the outset the Boss took the position that the two territories should not be viewed as pieces of real estate, devoid of human inhabitants, to be carved up and divided cynically by neighbouring countries.

There was need to ascertain the wishes of the people of the two territories, as appointed-members-cobbold-comm-Feb-1962was undertaken and reaffirmed by the Cobbold Commission in its Report dated August 1, 1962.

But both the Philippines and Indonesia did not accept the Cobbold Report as the last word on the wishes of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak.

Clearly, these officials could decide on the issue after several days of deliberations (April 9-17, 1963). It was finally agreed that the meeting would recommend to their respective governments that the Foreign Ministers of the three countries should meet early in May. They further agreed to recommend that the Foreign Ministers meeting should be followed by a meeting of the Heads of Government of the three countries.

Two more Tripartite meetings followed. One  was at the Foreign Ministers’ level on June 7-11, 1963, where our side was led by the Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. The Philippine delegation was led by Vice President Emanuel Pelaez, Dr. Subandrio headed the Indonesian side. The Ministers reaffirmed in the Manila Accord (Clause 10) the principle of self-determination and “would welcome the formation of Malaysia provided support of people of the Borneo territories is ascertained by an independent and impartial authority, the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative”.

As quid pro, Malaysia “undertook to consult the Government of the Borneo territories with a view to inviting the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representative to take the necessary  steps in order to ascertain the wishes of people of those territories.” (Clause 11).

Clause 12  reflected the long discussion on the issue of the Sabah claim and the subdued compromise that the Foreign Ministers “took note” of the Philippine claim to North Borneo and its rights to pursue it in accordance with international law and the peaceful settlement of  disputes. This was another fig leaf that we could live with, but it was  to lead to lingering tensions with the Philippines.

The successful June 7-11 Foreign Ministers meeting paved the way for the Summit Meeting of Malaya’s Tunku Abdul Rahman, Indonesia’s President Sukarno and Philippine President Macapagal which produced the Manila Declaration of August 5, 1963. The Heads of Government of Malaya, Indonesia and the Philippines “welcomed” the formation of Malaysia.

Eventually, with the fall of Sukarno and with the installation of the New Order government led by General Suharto, Malaysia reached an amicable solution with Indonesia. However, normalisation of relations with the Philippines took longer as the issue of the Sabah claim lingered on. In fact, bilateral relations underwent some strains over the issue.

Malaysia will not enter into any further dialogue on the Question of the Claim

A defining bilateral meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand on July 15, 1968. The Philippine delegation was led by Ambassador Guerrero, an aggressive diplomat who played hardball. The Malaysian delegation included the brilliant lawyer R.Ramani (who was also our Permanent Representative to the United Nations), Zainal Abidin Sulong and Zain Azraai.

This meeting did not start, nor did it end for that matter, too auspiciously.The Philippine delegation began with tactical moves to cause delays and with sweeping dicta and claims. It declared that its claim on Sabah was valid based on history and on its own security arrangements and made clear that it would not entertain any further clarifications sought by Malaysia.

The Boss rose to the occasion and demolished the Philippine claim with devastating logic and I quote:

“…Our questions indicated that we wished to challenge your basic assumption that the Sultan of Sulu had in fact sovereignty over the territory. his rights and powers over which he purported to convey to Dent and Overbeck in 1878. We did receive any precise answer from you on this question; and you were unable to point to anything in support of the Sultan’s claim to sovereignty, except to say in the vaguest terms that the Sultan of Brunei had ceded the territory to him, and you mentioned several dates when such cessation was understood to have taken place…

“We drew your attention to various authorities which cited different dates when the Sultan of Sulu acquired some rights and powers over the territory. Was it therefore in 1650, or was it in 1704, or was it about 1836, or near 1842, or was it 1878? You yourself gave several possible dates. It did not seem to occur to you that each particular date destroyed every other date and the fact of cession was, thereby, at the highest, left in doubt. Nor were you able to indicate the circumstances of his acquisition, whether rebellion in the territories of Brunei, a war of succession or an act of capitulation…

“We drew your attention to the documents of that time…Whether your case should not go no further than mere assertion of Sulu sovereignty…You are unable to do so, and we did not any intelligible answer from you as this, except that you had not heard of the Anglo-Philippine Talks in London in 1963…

“… in fighting subversion and terrorism Malaysia has the best record in this region…Malaysia has a good record of cooperation with Thailand and Indonesia on these matters. It is common knowledge that Malaysia and Thailand have a working arrangement on the Malaysian/Thai border…likewise along the Malaysian/Indonesian border.”

He concluded his long address with…

“Let me say this once again, Excellency. Do not pursue your claim to Sabah in order to satisfy these economic and security needs. These can only be fulfilled through cooperation with us. But your persistent pursuit of the claim will destroy that cooperation and therefore will not achieve for you the very things which you desire most for your economy and security…

“Therefore, let us maintain the good relations between our two countries and discuss our common needs. But at the same time let it be clearly understood that my Government will not enter into any further dialogue on the question of the Claim, or with that claim as its basis”.


*The above by Dato Hamzah Abdul Majid is an abridged and edited excerpt of his tribute titled King Ghaz: Personal Recollection, which appears in the National Archives publication titled King Ghaz: A Man of Time (2010) edited by Dato Seri Utama Dr. Rais Yatim.

I have chosen parts that deal with the Philippine Claim on Sabah. It is intended to provide a historical account of what happened during the period leading to the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Dato Hamzah was a member of the Malaysian foreign policy team led by (Tun) Muhammad Ghazali Shafie that dealt with the struggle to form Malaysia.

Filipino politicians are now apparently using the Lahad Datu Incursion as a pretext to revive  this issue  of the Sultan of Sulu’s claim on Sabah which is now a sovereign state in Malaysia. As far as Dato Hamzah and I are concerned, this matter should be put to rest in the interest of good relations between the Philippines and our country. Sabah belongs in Malaysia and the Philippines must learn to respect the wishes of the people of Sabah to be part of Malaysia.–Din Merican

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32 thoughts on “King Ghaz and the Question of the “Sabah Claim”

  1. Yeah. U are right din. We need good and intelligent officers to put the claim to rest. Not mediocre people . To talk in the air

  2. If only we had people like those that fought for the formation of Malaysia to defend our right on Batu Putih,we could have won hands down, instead we had an idiotic AG and his bunch of yes man, what could have been a victory will reflect later on in the future, mark my words…Oouch!! but true

  3. A great argument! We must protect our soil and don’t depend on the illegal IC recipients ,the Suluks ,Banglas,Pakistanis ,Burmese and the Indian Muslims of Borneo . Clear the illegal IC racquet and deport the people concerned. Safe Sabah for the Kadazans and long time malaysians .dont play religious and race card.

  4. Unfortunately today the person like King Ghaz cannot be found not because they don’t exist but being buried by leaders like Mahathir. What left are monkeys.

  5. Din

    Every right thinking Malaysian will share your hope that the Sabah matter is put to rest. However, I fear that if the bungling corrupted regime of Barisan Nasional continue to rule after GE13, we can all kiss goodbye to Sabah and even Sarawak.

    BN messed up Pulau Batu Putih is the most embarassing way and they will definitely mess up Sabah big time, if the matter goes to the international court. You see, the BN legal team will resort to the internet to prepare their legal case and lift stuff wholesale from any website that “appear” to have written at length about the Sabah matter. I say “appear” because these BN legal eagles do not understand English well enough to even pick the stuff on internet that actually support their case. Don’t believe me? Try speaking to the government legal team in English and you will be amazed!!!

  6. “…As far as Dato Hamzah and I are concerned, this matter should be put to rest ” in the interest of good relations between the Philippines and our country…”

    My comment:

    You CAN’T do that. Simply because international territorial disputes are not resolved with certainty between nations given that governments come and go. GOOD RELATIONS are conditional to whims and fancies of the Govt of the day and the moods of the population.

    The Sabah claim has to be put to rest by consensus of the international community i.e through support of the United Nations General Assembly via the adjudication of the ICJ.

    If Malaysia has a case on Sabah, which as it stands now it does, it should NOT fear or be hesitant to put it to the ICJ and let it proclaimed by the UN Assembly.

    Modern states are formed that way today, e.g Timur Leste, South Sudan etc.

    Depending on “good relations” is weak and based on quicksand logic. Not wise.
    The point is the matter was settled by Cobbold and UN missions in 1962 and 1963. Sabah is now Malaysia. As far as Malaysia is concerned there is no dispute. A recalcitrant Philippine leaders and politicians and their media are trying to revive the issue. Read King Ghaz statement carefully. The fate of Sabahans rests with Malaysia. Let us move and seriously start giving Sabahans a fair deal.–Din Merican

  7. The calibre of our civil servants in the immediate years after Merdeka and now is a world of difference. Really sad that this has been allowed to happen especially during the 22 years of Tun Mamakutty’s rule where the bar was lowered for political expediency.. kulitfication instead of meritocracy…

  8. What happened to us??? we never hear any statement resembling anywhere as close as the quality of the statement given by King Ghaz… we have lost these qualities… Ya Allah, please bring back quality Malaysians like the ones we used to have before.

  9. Bone I couldn’t agree with you more. This chap Dr M has done a lot of damages to the country notwithstanding some good he has done which are always to his advantage. King Ghaz was an outstanding person killed off politically by this chap. I have heard conversing with Lee Kuan Yew and telling him off in his face: come on, don’t be that dumb.

  10. Thanks to Mahathir who destroyed our institute of governance in this country to make him the epicenter of everything in Malaysia. Now we have mediocres everywhere even within his own children .

  11. When a couple gets married, there are the usual customary and legal procedures to go through. Once done, they are married in the eyes of society and in law.

    BUT at the heart of it, a marriage is not the customary rites or the legal papers. It is primarily how the couple threat each other. Should that relationship fail, nothing customary or legal matters; they are not really married anymore.

    Sabah is legally part of Malaysia, and recognised globally as such with perhaps the Philippines wavering in that respect.

    But at the heart of it, what matters most is how Malaysia threats Sabah and Sabahans, and vice versa. If Sabah and Sabahans get a raw deal from Malaysia, as many Sabahans have loudly protested to be the case for many, many year, can anyone blame them for feeling that they are not really part of Malaysia?

    Just look at how Mahathir and assorted chief ministers issued those hundrads upon hundreds of thousands of ICs to foreigners on flimsy premises. How the sate is still one of the poorest despite all that oil and timber. How the points in the Agreement leading up to the formation of Malaysia – with Sabah being an equal component on par with Malaya and Sarawak – has been ignored.

  12. Sabah belonggs to Malaysia as much as Malaya and Sarawak belong to Malaysia…The sulus blew any little chance they had of laying claim to sabah base on whatever archaic scriptures after running riot with total disregard to law and order that caused the deaths of several citizens of a soverign state… onwards any such claim must be treated as an act of war…

  13. What are you suggesting, Frank?!
    It would be like inviting a car thief to service your vehicle.
    That Sabah is part and parcel of the Malaysian Federation is beyond doubt, as attested to by Din. For Malaysia to request Adjudication by ICJ/UN is totally out of the question. If the Philippines want to do so, let them – they’re prone to ‘syiok sendiri’. A psychological small man syndrome.

    They can’t even deal with the Mindanao problem, yet want to take on another sovereign nation? But Ninoy Aquino, should be able rise above this – seeing that it’s internal politics by the Macapagal’s to cause a crisis of confidence. In many ways, the politics in the Philippines may be more corrupt, archaic, dim-witted, water-logged and cannibalistic as our own.

    The Kiram Tiga-Suku clans are so insular and over-reaching that they invade with force of arms, get walloped after serious miscalculation and mumbo-jumbo by our lembek authorities – yet insist on sending more armed ‘martyrs’ to fight ‘Oppression’. And at the same time, complain to UN about Human Rights Abuse. Ada Otak ke Tak? See here:

    When anyone wants to pick a fight, finish it or surrender lah.. Definitely a ‘Sandiwara’ – but on whose part, i can’t say. Nothing is going according to script.

  14. A recalcitrant Philippine leaders and politicians and their media are trying to revive the issue. – Dato Din Merican

    That is exactly my point.

    There is ample historical evidence on the Sabah controversy to show that the Sabah Claim issue will never be resolved in deference to ” GOOD RELATIONS”.

    King Ghaz can be eloquent on the issue, and we may take pride on what he had said, but until and unless it is bedded down once and for all by engaging the international community and the ICJ, it will fall on the deaf ears of the Filipinos.

    And there is NOTHING WE CAN DO to stop “Philippine leaders and politicians and their media” from reviving the issue, at any time they like and choose to.

    They can only be shut up by force of international community’s pressure and the final arbitration by the ICJ.

    We dug ourselves in the deep hole further when Malaysia kept on paying the RM 5,300 to the Sulu heirs AFTER Sabah became part of Malaysia, right up to this day. How dumb can we be, knowing that the Sulu heirs had authorised the Filipino Govt to fight their case on the Sabah claim in 1962.

  15. We do have smart intelligent Malays of course… but they are now serving top hospitals and banks and corporate entities in HK, Melbourne, London, NY and Dubai… bye bye mediocre Malaysia!

    p.s. The ones left behind are only good at making cut-and-paste photoshopped lewd videos of that black-eyed pea guy from Cerok Tok Kun…..

  16. It would be like inviting a car thief to service your vehicle.- C.L. Familiaris

    C.L. Familiaris.
    Firstly, You raise a Bad or useless analogy.

    The issue here is that somebody is also making claims to your vehicle. The ownership of the vehicle is being questioned.

    What do you do? You not only claim it is your vehicle, you show evidence and proof that it is your vehicle.

    Now, the guy doesn’t give a damn about your evidence and proof. So what do you do next? You can shoot him in the face, chase him away or you act civilise by putting your evidence and his evidence to an authoritative third party recognised by you and the other chap. And then let the decision known to everybody in the neighbourhood.

    Secondly, Dato Din’s contention that Philippines should let the Sabah claims laid to rest for the sake of GOOD RELATIONS.

    That is asking a robber who you know wants to rob your house at gun point to be nice to you by inviting him for dinner with you.

    Thirdly, you might win a battle in demonising your enemy with rhetoric etc, but that will NOT win you the war.

    The war can only be ended if you are on the right side of history. At this point in time, both Philippines (plus Sulu heirs) and Malaysia think they are on the right side of history. In this situation, both cannot be right.

    Shouting at the top of your voice that Sabah belongs to Malaysia DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM. Period.

    We need to act decisively to resolve this long standing issue once and for all. Firstly by stopping the stupidity of paying annually the paltry sum of RM 5,300 to the Sulu heirs since 1963 and at the same time we say Sabah belongs to us. How dumb can we be, I say again.

  17. Din. Sabah is a part of Malaysia NOT belongs to Malaysia.- Mohamed Mahmood

    Interesting point.

    I agree with Mohamed Mahmood’s choice of the semantics.

    To say Sabah belongs to Malaysia, means Malaysia can still exist WITHOUT Sabah. This is NOT historically correct, since Sabah is one of the three parties which came together TO FORM MALAYSIA

    Sabah is PART OF MALAYSIA is historically correct. Although if Sabah is out of Malaysia today, the name Malaysia can still be retained, as we see in the case of separation of Singapore.

    The correct phraseology is that SABAH is PART OF MALAYSIA…. NOT belong to Malaysia, because PRIOR to Sabah being part of Malaysia, there was NO SUCH ENTITY CALLED MALAYSIA. So the term “belong” is incorrect.

  18. Here we in Malaysia have a sticky situation. Philippines lay claims to Sabah yet it allows the issue to remain “dormant” to use the word by President Aquino in the last 30 odd years.Why so?.

    Why didn’t they pursue it in the ICJ given that the Sabah claim is inherently built into the Philippines Constitution.

    Of course, if THEY want to claim Sabah, they should initiate the move in the ICJ.
    They didn’t and instead allow the issue to simmer and dragged on.

    How who is at the receiving end for such tactic? We in Malaysia because time and again, that “dormant” strategy allows Philippines to make itself a nuisance to Malaysia. Like it is now.

    Here is the analogy:

    Someone who makes claims at your vehicle by shouting at your front door that the vehicle parked in your garage door is his, and not only that, he starts throwing eggs at your window saying that vehicle is his. He makes claims but he does NOT want to go to the authorities to file his claim because he wants the claim to lie “dormant”, so that his children and grandchildren can still lay claim.

    What do you do? Keep quiet and just yell back from your window that the vehicle is yours and not his? And you have nothing to claim from his house, as a tit for tat.

    Don’t you think that it is better to fix this nonsense yourself so that this monkey is off your back once and for all, instead of engaging in a shouting match right in front of your own house??

    That is why I said, we need to act on our own to fix this nuisance from Philippines. The nuisance is aggravated by Project IC, as all of you know, initiated by Kutty Supremo for UMNO to remain in power.

  19. Malaysia was formed during the premiership of Tengku / Macapagal/ Sukarno and following the Cobbold Commission Report which was subsequently endorsed by the UN. The passing of Tengku/ Macapagal/ Sukarno, left the so called Philippine claim in the back burner and heralded the formation of ASEAN . The claim never made front page during the presidency of Marcos and the premiership of Kutty as both were actively engaged in plundering their respective countries . Further the Mindanao Muslims were mounting an insurgeny in the Southern island of the Philippines seeking independence from Catholic Manila forcing Manila to put their so called claim in storage and even sought Malaysia to mediate in the dispute with its Muslim southerners !! Having more or less agreed on greater autonomy for the Muslim regions, and the descendants of the so called Sulu Sultan realising the yearly cession money of RM 5,300 (which Malaysia diligently paid as goodwill in keeping with earlier British Borneo Co practice and willingly accepted by Sulu reps) is no more than 10 BR1M payments to poor Malaysians, from an increasingly wealthy Sabah and Putra Jaya . So like all greedy humans , revive the claim .and by mounting the rag tag invasion, hoping to tie down Manila and world opinion to seek legitimacy to the claim and at a minimum, perhaps a more hefty cession sum yearly !!!

  20. Frank

    I can’t accept your analogy: “Someone who makes claims at your vehicle by shouting at your front door that the vehicle parked in your garage door is his, and not only that, he starts throwing eggs at your window saying that vehicle is his.”

    This analogy is wrong in the context of the Westphalian system of inter-state relations. Its wrong even in the context of the ASEAN Community.

    What we have now is a pesky neighbour acting in a silly manner. As BA Hamzah and several readers have pointed out, the matter of Sabah has been resolved definitively. NOT ONCE BUT THRICE in fact. First, was the Cobbold Commission and second was the UNSG. Finally don’t forget that EVERY single member of the UN has also recognized Malaysia which includes all the constituent states of the federation of which Sabah is an integral part.

    We don’t have to go back to the ICJ or any other international body to prove this fact. It would be inane. If the GoP thinks it has a case, it can back up its words by going to the ICJ. But Malaysia will NOT respond to such frivolous action and the ICJ won’t act on it too. And the GoP knows it.

    The GoP should also know that it CANNOT continue to act in this manner without repercussions. Tun Ghaz’s words are still relevant today as it was when it was made. It should know that its territorial integrity, security and prosperity is better served by having good relations with its neighbours.

    For its own interest, the GoP should desist now.

    However I fully agree with you that this problem is partly our own doing. I agree that we should have stopped the payment. But the worst damage was the treasonous act of the project IC. So we have to put our house in order first. Therefore, I agree that we should take immediate action to stop these payments. That will leave dealing with the treasonous act of project IC. I guess that’ll be assignment for a (near?) future government.

  21. What exactly is the ‘right’ side of history, Frank?
    A UN recognition that Sabah is part of Malaysia? That’s already a done deal.
    The claims of a loony despot who is but one of the many claimants to a historical, but no longer extant sultanate? It’s like saying the Dinosaurs still rule the Earth..

    Have you ever tried talking sense to a dangerous psychotic whose delusions of grandeur exceed all bounds of propriety? There is no recourse except to lock that guy up in a an asylum and throw away the key. There is a Law for that. Commit.

    No sovereign nation will take preemptive measures to ask for a judicial review of what it already owns and has been recognized. This is not a Civil War – like what happened in Katanga, Congo or even the Balkans. The aggrieved External party should be taking action – in this case the Kiram Tiga-Suku, with or without the assistance of the Filipino Government. If so, what will that make the Philippines? A Republic with an inbred wannabe Sultan? No can do.

    And yes, i would shoot the car thief first, and if necessary his whole tribe – before i show my ownership papers which i have.

  22. How Philippines will eventually take Sabah

    by G James
    4:02PM Oct 21, 2004

    Much water has flowed under the bridge since the formation of Malaysia. Even though Malaysia gained independence through peaceful means, it did not mean that the birth of the new nation was without labour pangs.

    Sukarno of Indonesia and Macapagal of the Philippines were both opposed to the inclusion of the North Borneo territory in the Federation of Malaysia. Sukarno, it must be emphasised, had launched the Konfrontasi to crush Malaysia.

    Macapagal was, however, less vehement in his pursuit against the formation of Malaysia, despite allegations in the first half of 1968 that young Suluk men were secretly being trained in Corrigedor for the purpose of infiltrating and invading Sabah.

    Successive Philippine governments have raised the matter of the claim over Sabah with the Malaysian government at various regional and international fora. At one stage, they even threatened to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for arbitration. However, the Malaysian government has persistently refused to be a litigant on the grounds that Sabah had become an integral part of Malaysia through a constitutional and democratic process.

    That aside, the people of Sabah had strongly expressed their desire to be part of the Federation of Malaysia under the aegis of the United Nations-sponsored United Nations Malaysian Mission (UNMM) and the Lord Cobbold Commission.

    Notwithstanding the above argument, the Philippine government has persisted to pursue her claim of sovereignty over Sabah. Two books were published on the claim, one in 1964 and the other in 1967, setting out the legal and historical bases of her claim on Sabah; but the contents of the books were refuted by the Malaysian government’s at a June-July 1968 meeting in Bangkok, much to the embarrassment of their Philippine counterparts.

    Undeterred by these failures, especially the one to bring the matter to the attention of the ICJ, the Philippine ambassador to the United Nation, Salvador Lopez, put on notice on October 1964 that the Philippines would ask that it (the claim) be placed on the agenda of the UN General Assembly.

    This proposition was immediately shot down by the Malaysian Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations at that time R Ramani who said:

    ‘The UN Charter says that all legal claims must be referred to the International Court of Justice. The Philippines now wants to take her claim to the UN. The Assembly is a political body. By their latest move, they are admitting that their claim is no longer a legal problem, but a political question.’

    Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos did initially warm up to the idea of friendlier relations with Malaysia when he ascended to the palace; but political expediency would rear its ugly head soon after. On September 18,1968, Marcos signed a Congressional Bill which defined part of Sabah as Philippine territory.

    Is the Philippine claim of sovereignty over Sabah phantom, or reality? For all intents and purposes, the claim on Sabah is political rather than legal, however much the Philippines tries to portray otherwise.

    In April 1970, vital documents relating to the claim had reportedly been lost from the Philippines National Archives.

    The strongest statement yet on the non-legal entity of the claim was made by the former Chief Justice of Borneo, CFC Macaskie when he handed down the judgement on the claim in 1939:

    ‘Now as regards the Sabah cession of course, the cession by the Sulu refers only to parts of the East Coast you know the question whether the cession agreement was a lease or an outright grant is really just a matter of semantics. What must decide is the wishes of the people.’

    Sabah, despite our Prime Minister’s declaration that it is one of the poorest states in Malaysia, is actually rich. This is probably one of the reasons why it is so tantalising.

    It is rumoured that Sabah’s oil reserves are as big as Kuwait’s. Besides, we have substantial mineral deposits such as coal, gold, etc. apart from our huge natural tourism potentials. Diving haven Sipadan alone brings in RM50 million a year. Yet this island resort is only the tip of the iceberg of our tourism assets. So Sabah is a pricey catch.

    The Philippine government knows full well the futility of pursuing the claim through the legal channels; but they will pursue it nonetheless for various reasons.

    Military options are not plausible as they are obviously against the spirit of ASEAN. The Americans might be their military partner; but Malaysia is a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with the United Kingdom involved. The latter, of course, is America’s closest ally.

    It has been quite clear since the early seventies that there has been an attempt to realise this objective through demographic means when their diplomacy and veiled military threats failed to fructify.

    Tens of thousands of their citizens flooded the shores of Sabah. The rebellion in the south could have been instigated as a ruse for their citizens to leave; and to our disadvantage the UN has granted a number of them refugee status. By now their numbers could be at a ratio of one to one to the locals.

    Judging from the newspaper reports, a number of them have also been charged for possession of fake identification papers. This is a clear indication that they have been attempting to acquire Malaysian citizenships by hook or by crook. Are we sure that our security safety net is foolproof?

    By international convention, these people could become citizens of Malaysia naturally if they are not repatriated. Hence, they could take part in future elections.

    The implication of this is grave, because the possibility of them standing for elections and winning is not a figment of an imagination. Then their motherland could agitate for a referendum; and the result is a foregone conclusion.

    In the heat of the 1985 and 1986 riots in Sabah, these Filipinos were heard to say openly that Sabah belonged to the Philippines. Their leaders certainly believe so.

    The question of their claim on Sabah and the issue of illegal immigrants have been plaguing Sabahans for more than three decades now; yet there has been no solution in sight.

    Among the reasons cited for the inability to stem the influx is the long coastline. Plausible this may be; but considering the time factor, the problem still smacks of something less desirable for the future of Malaysians living in Sabah.

    Commenting on the Philippines’ claim on Sabah, Historian Dr James Ongkili could not have made a more poignant reminder for us to ponder upon when he said in his book, Modernisation in East Malaysia 1960 – 1970:

    ‘… the Philippines has been flogging a dead horse and Malaysia has been too hesitant to bury the carcass, while Sabah has had to bear the stench’.

  23. Are there any Malaysians in the Foreign Service, AG’s chambers etc or even anyone in the much-vaunted PTD service who will be able to refute any Philippine claim as was done at the “June-July 1968 meeting in Bangkok, much to the embarrassment of their Philippine counterparts”?
    Or shoot down any Pi claim as was done by Ramani at the UN in 1964?
    Or will Sabah eventually go the way of Batu Putih?

    Judging from the preponderance of bag- and ball-carriers and high-class public relations men and women in the PTD today, Malaysia will be hard-put to make a robust defence of her position should there be a concerted attempt by the Pi to stake her claims over Sabah. At conferences and meetings I see more of the PTDs outside the meeting halls strutting their coat and tie stuff rather than dealing with the hard issues INSIDE the meeting rooms. Hell, some of their main tugas2 is to to meet and send dignitaries and usher them around like tourist guides.

  24. And yes, i would shoot the car thief first, and if necessary his whole tribe, before i show my ownership papers which i have.-C.L. Familiaris

    … And you will have a few hand grenades thrown into your house plus possible one or two rocket launchers through your window.

    What are you going to do about that? They don’t mind losing their claim on your car, if they can demolish your home at the same time. That is what happened at Lahad Datu.

    As I said, loud “syok sendiri” rhetoric wins battles but will not win the war.

    By the way, the issue for Malaysia today is NOT the Sulu heirs, they are now irrelevant in the Sabah claim. It is the Filipino Govt.

    Bear in mind, in international law, there is a distinction between sovereignty rights and propriety rights. The Sulu heirs are gunning for propriety rights while the Filipino Govt are fighting for sovereignty rights.

    I will come back to you about your two other questions: my analogy and the meaning of “right side of history”. I am still getting hangovers celebrating April Fool’s Day yesterday. You will get your reply.

  25. ‘… and Malaysia has been too hesitant to bury the carcass, while Sabah has had to bear the stench’.
    -Dr James Ongkili in his book, Modernisation in East Malaysia 1960 – 1970:

    Couldn’t have said it better.

    C.L. Familiaris , you get the drift?

    That was my point when I said Malaysia should bed this one out once and for all, if it takes going to the ICJ and the UN General Assembly.

    Philippines will prolong its move to bring to ICJ, because it knows it will LOSE.

    So if you know you will lose, you prolong the whole issue.

    The right thing to do for Malaysia is to call Philippines’ bluff. A better and more civilised option than to shoot them in the face, as you suggested.

  26. Yes, i would agree with the assessment that the whole SNAFU is political and not legal. But it’s political only to the Pinoys. Changing the demographic status has nothing to do with sovereignty, which is tied in with legality.
    Since the cess payments are the bone of contention, let’s get it outta way through a court ruling in te KK High Court, as advised by Karpal.
    Unless there’s a referendum that Sabah wants out of the Federation, the status quo of sovereignty is mute.

  27. C.L. Familiaris ,

    I owe you a response, that’s the least I could do.Now that April Fool’s Day is over, I will give you a serious reply.

    Two issues you raised”

    1. You can’t accept my analogy: “Someone who makes claims at your vehicle by shouting at your front door that the vehicle parked in your garage door is his, and not only that, he starts throwing eggs at your window saying that vehicle is his.” This analogy is wrong in the context of the Westphalian system of inter-state relations. Its wrong even in the context of the ASEAN Community.

    2. What exactly is the ‘right’ side of history,

    Take the first issue:

    In the dog-eat-dog world of international politics, nobody cares about “Westphalian system of interstate relations” or whatever relations, or even the interest of Asean Community. If they think you stole one yard of their territory, they will not only throw eggs in your face, they will send some hand grenades as gifts through your window. Why do you think the Philippines didn’t stop those Sulu loonies coming over to Sabah. You think they didn’t know about that prior to the February 12th. The Philippines has good navy backup in the Sulu Sea.

    Second Issue

    Being on the “right side of history” means who can claim that using history as the judge, who actually owns Sabah? Right now, Philippines and Malaysia claim to have history on their side.

    Now let me answer both issues with one rocket launcher:

    You mentions about the Cobbold Commission etc

    To quote you ” First, was the Cobbold Commission and second was the UNSG. Finally don’t forget that EVERY single member of the UN has also recognized Malaysia which includes all the constituent states of the federation of which Sabah is an integral part. ..”

    Now here’s the problem for Malaysia.

    On the formation of Malaysia, the three Govts (Malaya, Philippines and Indonesia) signed the MANILA ACCORD on 31st July 1963 ( one of those “GOOD RELATIONS” exercise) which I believe remains binding to this day.

    Para 8 of the Accord says this:

    ” In accordance with paragraph 12 of the Manila Accord, the three Heads of Government decided to request the British Government to agree to seek a just and expeditious solution to the dispute between the British Government and the Philippine Government concerning Sabah (North Borneo) by means of negotiation, conciliation and arbitration, judicial settlement, or other peaceful means of the parties own choice of conformity with the Charter of the United Nations. THE THREE HEADS OF GOVERNMENT TAKE COGNIZANCE OF THE POSITION REGARDING THE PHILIPPINE CLAIM TO SABAH (NORTH BORNEO) AFTER THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FEDERATION OF MALAYSIA AS PROVIDED UNDER PARAGRAPH 12 OF THE MANILA ACCORD, THAT IS, THE INCLUSION OF SABAH (NORTH BORNEO) IN THE FEDERATION OF MALAYSIA DOES NOT PREJUDICE EITHER THE CLAIM OR ANY RIGHT THEREUNDER….”

    (the capital letters are mine)

    So you see, as far as Philippines is concerned, the Cobbold Commission etc etc has not put an end to the Sabah Claim issue despite the referendum under the auspices of the UN.

    That is why I said, it is to OUR BEST INTEREST to finally nail down the coffin of this Sabah Claim or as Dr Ongkili said ” bury the carcass” once and for all, instead of allowing the Philippines to keep on flogging the dead horse.

    Why wait for Philippines to bring to ICJ. If they thought they can win the case, they would have pursued it since 1962 and even after the formation of Malaysia. But they didn’t.

    Right now what the Flipinos are doing to Malaysia, as my neighbour would put it, ” putting their fingers in and tickling our arses from time to time.”

    I say again, instead of feeling-good with our “syok sendiri” rhetoric, we should just ” bury the carcass” once and for all… go to ICJ and be done with it instead of getting our “arse tickled every now and then”.

    Both Malaysia and the Philippines must agree to go the ICJ. Since the matter is resolved in 1963 when the people of North Borneo chose to join us to form Malaysia, the Philippines should not now interfere in our internal affairs. That country should solve its own problems. –Din Merican

  28. Fantastic reading material here to gain some indepth knowlege on the issue. I wonder how many in our Foreign Service can absorb arguments for / against Malaysia taking the matter to the ICJ for a ruling? I ask because the above article and comments are in English.

  29. something funny came to my mind. what happened if delegates from Philippines come and show the photograph of Altantuya and Najib to Najib. I am sure Najib will concede to the demand of the Philippines.

  30. Since the matter is resolved in 1963 when the people of North Borneo chose to join us to form Malaysia, the Philippines should not now interfere in our internal affairs – Dato Din Merican

    Wishful thinking, Dato. As far as the Filipinos are concerned, the issue was never settled in 1963 ( read Manila Accord). That is why they are still in the ass of Malaysia.

    It is for our own good, we bring the matter up with ICJ, whether Philippines want it or not.

    Except we may have one problem if we go to the ICJ.We might have half baked lawyers and Kangkung experts in Wisma Putra who can’t compose an argument in a logical sequence at the ICJ hearing. This is because our civil service is now populated by mediocres headed by a apple-poliahing and balls- carrying Chief Secretary to Govt. We will be out talked and outflanked by the more articulate Filipinos.
    Frank, I do not worry about what the Filipinos think. If we don’t change our position on the Sabah claim (it is not the whole of Sabah, let us be clear on that), there is nothing the Filipinos can do, unless they want to go to war. The matter was settled in 1963.That is not wishful thinking.–Din Merican

  31. The matter was settled in 1963.That is not wishful thinking.–Dato Merican

    That is what WE think. Neither do the Filipinos worry what WE think.

    In diplomatic relations, what counts is whether each side can agree what each other thinks.

    That is why the Sabah issue is not yet settled in 1963 and Dr. Ongkili is absolutely right. We did NOT bury thr carcass, we allowed the stench to permeate the air in Sabah.

    We need to nail it down once and for all unilaterally, for the sake of our future generations as the mist of history will progressively fogs and masks the reality of today in years to come.

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