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

Also read this :

NO Deal on Sabah: Sabahans are Malaysians

March 23, 2013

NO Deal on Sabah: Sabahans are Malaysians

by Raymond Tombung@

Sabah LogoThe Sabah claim will continue to be raised by the Phlippines and Sulu as it is powerful and emotive international issue which many leaders in Manila will find convenient to bleed for political mileage. And the many “sultans” in Sulu will continue to cast their hungry eyes at Sabah, considered to be “the last gold coin” and aspire, albeit hopelessly, to try and achieve the impossible.

But Malaysians, especially Sabahans, should be able to give a cogent argument on the issue of this claim and in favour of Sabah.All Malaysians and Sabahans need is three or four historical facts, events or political realities to win the argument.

So let’s always keep clear knowledge of the following:

1. The controversy arising from the 1878 treaty between Jamalul Alam and British North Borneo Company.It can strongly be argued that it was a “cession” and not a “lease” as claimed by Filipinos.

Note that any argument on the matter was decisively clarified and settled when on April 22, 1903, Sultan Jamalul Kiram signed a document known as “Confirmation of Cession of certain Islands” in which he says the 1878 treaty was a CESSION.

The “confirmation” of the 1878 treaty says specifically that “We, the Sultan of Sulu, state with truth and clearness that we have ceded to the Government of British North Borneo of our own pleasure all the islands that are near the territory of North Borneo… This is done because the names of the islands were not mentioned in the 22nd January, 1878 [treaty]… that the islands were included in the cession…”

2. The purpose of the Madrid Protocol of 1885 was to recognise the sovereignty of Spain in the Sulu Archipelago and also for Spain to relinquish all claims it might have had over North Borneo.

Article III of the protocol states that “The Spanish Government renounces… all claims of sovereignty over the territories of the continent of Borneo, which belong, or which have belonged in the past to the Sultan of Sulu [Jolo]….”

3. The signing of the Carpenter Agreement on March 22, 1915 in which Sultan Jamalul Kiram II was stripped off all temporal (worldly) power and retained only the empty title of Sultan. His claimed ownership of North Borneo was of no concern to the American colonists.

4. The Macaskie Dictum (Judgment) of 1939. This judgment doesn’t settle the argument although Macaskie said the annual payment was cession money and not rental money and that the nine plaintiff heirs were entitled to.

These payments, however, in no way had anything to do with territorial property. This is because a later translation by the Filipinos of the original 1878 treaty (written in Malayan Jawi) said the agreement was a “pajak” which they say meant “lease”.

(Today “pajak” can mean “purchase”). But even this judgment was preceded by the addition “cession” of 1903 and the Madrid Protocol of 1885.

Power of Attorney questionable

5. The Sulu “sultans” cannot claim Sabah because there is no more a Sulu sultanate and there is no more any real sultan. The only legitimate royal group in Sulu are the descendants of the nine heirs who went to Macaskie in 1939.

6. Sulu (a region of the Philippines without any national sovereignty) cannot claim Sabah which is part of Malaysia – a sovereign nation.Only a country can claim another country or a part of another country. This,therefore,means Sulu has no locus standi to claim Sabah. The power of attorney that was given to Macapagal by the Sulu Sultan to give Diosdado Macapagal the “authority” to claim Sabah on Sulu’s behalf (now withdrawn) has very questionable validity.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why Manila had not really pursued the claim using the so-called power of attorney.

7. Manila had denied and re-recognised the sultanate a number of times, but this does not change the fact that there has been not been any sultanate to speak of since the Carpenter-Kiram Agreement of 1915.

8. By July 15, 1946, the British government had taken over North Borneo when the North Borneo Company could no longer manage it after the devastation of World War II.

The company had the right to hand over North Borneo to whoever it wanted because the country had been ceded to it in 1878 (and confirmed by the confirmation of cession in 1903 and the nullification of Sulu’s ownership of the country by the Madrid Protocol of 1885).

9. Many Brunei historians actually argue that Brunei never gave away any part of North Borneo to Sulu. And there is no document whatsoever to prove this cession.

Two Flags10. After Sabah became part of Malaysia and Malaysia’s sovereignty was recognised by the United Nations and the world, that had effectively superceded and nullified any claim on Sabah.

ICJ confirmed Sabah’s status as part of Malaysia

Sulu cannot be so arrogant and shameless to think that it can simply and freely take back a piece of land it “owned” 135 years ago after it has been developed by someone else for half a century.

11. The International Court of Justice (which is an arm of the United Nation) had recognised and confirmed Sabah as part of Malaysia when it made a verdict in 2002 that Sipadan and Ligitan islands belonged to Malaysia (and not Indonesia). This confirmation of ownership cannot be reversed in favour of Sulu (judgments of the ICJ  are not subject to appeal).

12. Whatever the arguments are, all the past agreements and treaties – whether they were valid, arguable or controversial – are now effectively useless historical references because they have been superseded by bigger and more important events.

Therefore the argument by Harry Roque, a law professor at University of the Philippines, who says that a legal principle known as “uti posseditis juris” (“accords pre-eminence of legal title over effective possession as a basis of sovereignty”) is useless and ineffective. Also, this pre-eminence of legal title is a double-edged sword because it can also be applied to Malaysia.

13. Professor Dr Ramlah Adam recently said: “They cannot claim [Sabah] just based on history. For example, the Siam government handed Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu over to the British and [today] cannot claim the states.”

Prof Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim said that if the Philippines’ argument can be accepted, then “Singapore should be returned to Johor and Penang be returned to Kedah”.

And for that matter why does Brunei not claim Sabah as well because there is a Brunei argument that it never gave Sabah to Sulu? Or why doesn’t Indonesia claim Peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand? After all, weren’t these regions under the Srivijaya Empire in the eighth century?

14. Sabahans do not want to be part of the Philippines, as confirmed by the findings of the Cobbold Commission.Even today Sabahans feel a lot of trepidation at the mere thought of being under the so-called Sulu sultanate.

No referendum

15. There is an argument that Malaysia had agreed in the Manila Accord (signed July 31, 1963) that the formation of Malaysia was subject to the Philippines’ claim over Sabah.

But whatever was agreed in the Manila Accord has been superseded by later events, for example, the formation of Malaysia which included Sabah, two months after the Manila Accord.

In the Bangkok Talks of June-July 1968, Malaysia had unilaterally rejected the Manila Accord.With the benefit of hindsight, wasn’t the Manila Accord an exercise in futility, especially by the Philippines in trying to hang on to something which couldn’t be implemented and solved till the end of time?

If the terms of the Manila Accord were adhered to, there would have been no Malaysia.Of prime importance was the wishes of Sabahans – two-thirds of whom wanted to join Malaysia as the findings of the Cobbold Commission indicated the year before.

And noteworthy is Article 10 of the accord which says: “The Ministers reaffirmed their countries’ adherence to the principle of self-determination for the people’s of non-governing territories. In this context, Indonesia and the Philippines stated that they would welcome the formation of Malaysia provided the support of the people of the Borneo territories is ascertained by an independent and impartial authority, the Secretary-General of the United Nations or his representatives.”

There was not much time to carry out such a referendum, but wasn’t this condition (to allow Sabah to be part of Malaysia) already fulfilled by the Cobbold Commission the year before?

A virtual paradise

Sabah- Land Below the Wind2

16. Even Sabahan Tausugs do not want to be part of the Philippines.Ed Lingao, a renowned Filipino author and journalist had on February 21, 2013, reported in Minda News that he had undertaken a random survey of the Tausugs in Sabah and found out that even they do not want Sabah to become part of the Philippines.

He wrote: “Many of the Tausugs we encountered detested the idea of the Philippine government reclaiming Sabah. Refugees from war and poverty, many of these Tausugs see little benefit in a Sabah under the Philippine flag; in fact, for them, it is a worrying proposition, not unlike jumping from the clichéd frying pan into an even bigger fire.

“One Tausug we encountered outside a mall in Kota Kinabalu bristled at the idea of the Philippines staking a claim on Sabah saying ‘sisirain lang nila ang Sabah. Okay na nga ang Sabah ngayon, guguluhin lang nila,’ (They will just destroy Sabah. Sabah is doing fine right now, they will just mess it up).

“It is hard to blame them for the cynicism. After all, they took great risks and fled their own troubled country in droves for a better life, only to have that same country reach out and stake a claim on what, to them, is already a virtual paradise where one can finally live and work in peace. That, to them, may be the ultimate irony, the ultimate tragedy.”

Najib-Op Daulat

As such, what we see today is a group of desperate people trying to live in the glory of the distant past, stepping forward with their thick skins with no regard for the truth.Lingao described the nature of the situation on February 19 in an article, “Sabah as the last gold coin”.

In it he notes: “Sabah became their clutch when their own Sulu was sinking, so to speak, from the heavy weight of bloodshed that spiralled into poverty.

“Sabah became the vision of the last gold coin that could win back the possibility of rising again, getting back the worth of a name: the venerable House of Kiram.”

How very sad and tragic indeed. And now more blood is being spilled in the name of a great overstated lie!

Suluk Invaders only flog a dead horse (kuda mati)

March 17, 2013

Suluk Invaders only flog a dead horse (kuda mati)

Bunn-Nagara-Behind-The-Headlines-2by Bunn Nagara

EVEN though foreign insurgents make a historical claim to Sabah, the facts of history refute it.

AS Malaysian troops and police continue mopping-up operations to flush out straying remnants of the Lahad Datu standoff, partisans on both sides trade emotive claims and insults.

Analysts, meanwhile, weigh the terms in historical documents like “rent”, “lease” and “cession money” to determine Sabah’s actual status. But not only are these documents read differently in translation (English and Sulu), the terms are also interpreted differently.

It makes more sense to focus on the events and circumstances of history. The known facts reveal at least 16 reasons why the Filipino Sulu claim to Sabah is unwarranted and unworthy of consideration.

First, today’s Philippines as a modern nation state and a republic by definition abrogates a former sultanate whose territory it occupies and whose sovereignty it denies.

The Republic of the Philippines has no claim to Sabah of its own. The on-off claim, originating from Sulu sovereignty made by certain quarters, is only a private matter of some revisionist individuals.

The second reason is that the Sulu Sultanate no longer exists, since there Bogus Sultan-Jamalul-Kiram-III.3was no provision even for a constitutional monarch. Any claim requires a claimant and the property/territory in question, whether anyone else has effective control and ownership over it. If the claimant or the territory does not exist, the claim cannot stand.

The insurgents and their leader Jamalul Kiram III (right) are only pressing a notional claim, since they cannot represent a defunct entity.

Third, there is no agreed rightful heir to the last Sultan of Sulu, even if an heir were to press the claim. Jamalul’s claim to be that heir is disputed by nearly a dozen other hereditary “royal” personages.

Another reason for rejecting his claim to Sabah comes with denial of his claim to the throne: 10 other “heirs” had renounced all claim to Sabah in 2007. Nine did so in a signed statement, and Rodinood Julaspi Kiram II in a separate declaration.

It does not matter whether Jamalul was among the nine. If he was, he had unlawfully reneged on the signed agreement, and if he wasn’t, he is outnumbered and is challenged 10 ways.

Fifth, when Spain took over the Sulu Sultanate as part of the Philippines, it left North Borneo (Sabah) in British hands. Spain disrupted the Sultanate by removing 18-year-old Sultan Jamalul Kiram II in 1886, replacing him with a rival, only to “reappoint” him six years later.

Britain made North Borneo a protectorate in 1888. Under Spain, the Philippines and most of the Sulu Sultanate with it were going in one direction, while North Borneo and the British went in another.

Eventually, the sultanate was divested of political and administrative powers until it exercised authority only over religious matters. No effective, functioning sultanate existed any more.

Sixth, the death of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II in 1936 saw no successor, since he died childless. His younger brother and anointed successor, Mawalil Wasit, died the same year before he was crowned.

Thus ended the Royal House of Sulu’s lineage. After Spain passed the Philippines, including the territory of the former sultanate (excluding North Borneo) to the United States, the US officially abolished what remained of the sultanate in 1936.

Eighth, the British North Borneo Company also ceased payment to the sultanate that year, indicating that the business sector had considered the 1878 agreement voided. (Payment later resumed only after relatives of the deceased sultan brought the matter to court.)

Manuel L. QuezonNinth, President Manuel L. Quezon (left) of the (then) Commonwealth of the Philippines declared in 1936 that Jamalul Kiram II was the last Sultan of Sulu. To emphasise the point, Quezon said the Philippine government would no longer recognise a Sulu Sultanate.

Britain had been exercising increasing proprietary moves over North Borneo, earning two rebukes from the US (1906, 1920). Britain ignored those reminders and annexed North Borneo in 1946, turning it into a crown colony.

Whatever the moral issues there, it again spelled the end of any vestige of Sulu royalty. For London, it was a justifiable move since it had taken over all the legal obligations of North Borneo.

Tenth, there was no question later (in the 1960s) about Sabah having to obtain independence from Britain. This underlined the fact that Britain was the sole governing authority up to that point.

Then as Sabah’s independence and the Cobbold Commission’s findings led to the scheduled formation of Malaysia on August 31, 1963, agitation flared from the Philippines. The date was postponed to September 16, such that Sabah was an independent entity for 16 days, ending any remaining claim from an extinct sultanate or the Philippines as belonging to it.

Twelfth, the very act of freely becoming part of the Malaysian federation negated all further claims on the territory by foreign partisans. The new state of Malaysia in its present form is recognised in all international organisations, including the United Nations and ASEAN, of which the Philippines is also a member.

Although former President Marcos tried to retake Sabah in the 1960s, the claim was later abandoned. At the Second Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur in 1977, Marcos declared that the Philippines was taking concrete steps to end the claim.

Later, as Marcos’ rule clearly became a dictatorship, he made Punjungan Kiram “interim sultan” for Sulu. But this candidate ran off to Sabah, preferring to be a Malaysian instead.

Marcos then “appointed” Punjungan’s son Jamalul Kiram III successor to a non-existent sultan. This instigator of Lahad Datu is not only a dubious candidate since he is not the son of a sultan, but his claim to authority comes from a discredited and ousted dictator of a republic.

Not least, when President Corazon Aquino’s post-Marcos government Corazon Aquino2planned a new Philippine Constitution in 1987, Malaysia lobbied for wording to end the disturbing claim to Sabah for good.

This would replace “historical right or legal title” with “over which the government exercises sovereign jurisdiction” (i.e. the status quo), which was accepted after the third reading in Congress.

So for Philippine citizens to invade Sabah to lay claim to it clearly violates their country’s Constitution. President Benigno Aquino III’s prosecution of these criminals is fully in accordance with the law.

It is also said that no rightful Filipino claim to Sabah exists because as a country, it had not consistently engaged in the activities of a de facto power there. Not only that, there has also been no consistent Filipino claim to Sabah.

Be Grateful and Loyal to our Security Forces

March 16, 2013

Be Grateful and Loyal to our Security Forces in Lahad Datu

by Tunku Abdul

STEADFAST: They are in the front line risking life and limb to protect the nation

Najib-Op DaulatTHE Royal Malaysia Police engaged in a series of life-and-death operations against Sulu terrorists in Lahad Datu and Semporna, Sabah,  have  once again demonstrated that peace and internal security cannot be taken for granted.

While admittedly the task of securing the borders of Sabah will be near to impossible given its geography, we have been somewhat cavalier, particularly in dealing with the movements of the people from southern Philippines.

It is both ironic and galling that while the Suluks are moving in and out at will, West Malaysians who are putting their lives at risk fighting to defend Sabah are treated as foreigners as far as Immigration control formalities are concerned.

Our Immigration laws have to be tightened to make it more difficult for illegal immigrants and other criminal elements from using Malaysia as a base for human and drug trafficking.

Malaysia has earned, and deservedly so, an unsavoury international reputation as a centre for racketeering and trafficking activities. Our enforcement of laws at entry points is at best cursory and at worst derisory. The Kuala Lumpur International Airport is the soft underbelly of our Immigration control. We have made it all too easy for foreign nationals to enter, in a bid to promote tourism. All perfectly understandable, but is the tourist dollar mightier than national security?

The Police have responded magnificently to the deadly threat posed by theAction in Lahad Datu (Sulu) terrorists and it is comforting to see how well they and their military counterparts have been working side by side.

It requires a high level of trust and understanding for two security forces with their different traditions and modus operandi to harmonise the complex operational elements of command and control.

There are not many countries in the world where such an effective integration exists between the Army and the Police in dealing with threats to internal security.

Questions were asked why the Army was not called into action as soon as the incursion was discovered.

The country was not invaded by a foreign army: public order and internal security falls within the jurisdiction of the police and the army is used in support of civil authority on request. This arrangement has worked well in the past.

Let us listen to what others had to say about our Police Force, with its long tradition of public duty in the interests of the nation.

According to Gen (Sir Rob) Lockhart, Director of Operations during the early phase of the Malayan Emergency: “The Police have been and are the spearhead of our attack as well the main source of our defence against the bandits in Malaya.”


Gen (Sir) Gerald Templer (above), who later assumed full military and civil control as high commissioner of the Federation of Malaya, paid this compliment: “I have great affection and admiration for the Royal Federation of Malaya Police force and its component parts.

“They are the people who have been continuously at the business of fighting militant communism all through the long 10 years of the Emergency in their country.”

According to J.W.G. Moran, the author of Spearhead in Malaya, “up to theSpearhead in Malaya end of 1965, 2,890 Police personnel were killed in action, as against the military force’s 518. During the same period, the communist casualties totalled 11,718, out of which 8,678 were bagged by the Police jungle forces”.

Nothing much has changed as far as our Policemen and women are concerned: they are there in the front line, at the sharp end, risking life and limb to secure and preserve peace and order for all citizens, irrespective of race, politics or religion.

They deserve our gratitude for their steadfast loyalty and commitment in protecting lives and properties under all circumstances.

I am pleased that the government has seen it fit to improve the conditions and services of the Police and Armed Forces. They perform a thankless job for such small material recompense. We are able to go about our business in peace and safety because they are there when we need them.

The Opposition’s cyber troopers, who hide behind the cyber skirt demonising those who face constant danger in protecting us, should desist from politicising what is a serious threat to the security of our nation.

If you are incapable of showing patriotism to your country, that is your business, but go elsewhere where you will be happy to peddle your pathologically obsessive hatred for the forces of law and order.This country is better off without you.

US Dirty Tricks? Malaysia Faces Uncertain War in Sabah

March 14, 2013

US Dirty Tricks? Malaysia Faces Uncertain War in Sabah

Global Research, March 10, 2013
Sabah is Malaysia's

Tension is high in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah following an ongoing standoff between Islamic militants from the nearby southern Philippines and Malaysian security forces. 235-armed militants landed in eastern Sabah in early February and occupied several villages in an effort to assert a centuries-old claim over the territory. Both sides accuse the other of firing the first shot, but once the stand-off produced Malaysian causalities,Malaysian security forces deployed fighter jets and launched an unprecedented air assault on the militants with five battalions of solders deployed over the area in an operation to flush out the militant group, which they termed “Operation Sovereignty”.

At least 52 militants have been killed, in addition to several Malaysian policemen who were reportedly mutilated by the insurgents; reports claim that militants sent an e-mail message to Malaysian authorities that included images of beheaded police officers. The insurgents identified themselves as the “Royal Sulu Army”, representing the now-defunct Sulu Sultanate that controlled the territory for centuries before leasing the land to the colonial British North Borneo Company in 1878.

The Manila-based Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, directed theSultan Jamalul Kiram III insurgency, while his brother Agbimuddin Kiram led ground operations into Sabah. The Sultanate insists that Sabah is its homeland, and it will not budge on its claims over the territory even if its personnel are killed in the standoff. British colonialists leased the land from the Sultanate and eventually annexed Sabah in 1946 before turning over the disputed territory to the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. At the time, the Philippines contested the transfer, claiming that the British did not possess the authority to transfer ownership to Malaysia.

The British and the Malaysian authorities responded by asking the United Nations to conduct a referendum which came to the conclusion that two-thirds of the population of Sabah favoured joining Malaysia. The Malaysian government also began paying small annual payments to the heirs of the sultanate as compensation for their cession of the land, an arrangement that has continued to the present day.

Malaysia originally took a soft approach on the Filipinos militants by offering them the opportunity to lay down their arms and leave peacefully, leading many to criticize the government and security forces for allowing the militants to penetrate Malaysian territory. Local media referred to the gunmen as “intruders”, but soon after the gunmen engaged security personnel in a firefight, Malaysia began referring to the group as “terrorists”. Prime Minister Najib Razak authorized intense retaliatory strikes, calling for the total surrender of militants. Following the airstrikes, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III told Filipino media that he was unable to contact his brother, militant leader Agbimuddin Kiram, and that he was increasingly worried over the safety of his “royal army” in Sabah, prompting the Sultan to call for a ceasefire. Malaysian PM Najib reiterated that he would not consider any request unless the militants in Sabah turn over their arms to the Malaysian authorities and surrendered.

Filipino militant groups call for retaliation against Malaysia

The Philippine government under President Benigno Aquino has sided with Malaysia and reiterated its call to followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to surrender to prevent further bloodshed.

Aquino has spoken of punishing the Sultan and his men for masterminding the armed rebellion in Sabah, prompting a domestic backlash that threatens fragile peace deals with separatist militant groups sympathetic to the Sultan’s cause. Fighters representing the Sulu Sultanate are ethnic Tausugs from the Philippines’ Sulu region, some of whom have aligned themselves with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which has been fighting for autonomy over the territories in the southern Philippines. Nur Misuari, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), warned the Aquino government of chaos if Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is arrested or his men apprehended.

Nur_MisuariNur Misuari founded the MNLF in 1969 with the aim of forming an independent egalitarian nation in the Philippines’ easternmost regions of Mindanao, Palawan, and Sulu. The organization has at times preached religious tolerance, and is composed of Muslims, Christians, members of indigenous faiths. An MNLF offshoot – the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) – is known to have perpetrated brutal violence and murder. The ASG maintain links to Al-Qaeda networks, and reports issued by AFP claim that US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks implicate a Saudi Arabian ambassador to the Philippines of bolstering Filipino terrorist networks with cash through religious charities.

At a recent press conference, Misuari stated, “And for what reason is he (Aquino) aligning this country with Malaysia, a colonial power occupying the land of our people? I am against that, totally against that with all my soul. I hope the president will be properly advised. I hope he will recant. Otherwise we won’t forgive him. And there is an attempt even to arrest the sultan, I understand. Let them do that. The country will be in total chaos if they do, I promise you.” MNLF political chief officer Gapul Hajirul has warned of civil war in Sabah waged by Filipino Muslims who have long resided there. Nur Misuari warned Malaysian PM Najib that targeting Filipino Muslims in Sabah “would be tantamount to war”.

After Malaysia’s assault on the Sulu militants, Princess Celia Fatima Kiram warned that the Sultanate would wage a “long civil war” in Sabah. The MNLF has claimed that thousands of ethnic Tausug fighters were planning to enter Sabah using small pump boats, and that many had already successfully slipped through a naval blockade set up by the Philippines.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that MNLF member Habib Hashim Mudjahab claimed that at least 10,000 Tausug people from islands in the southern Philippines were headed to Sabah to act as reinforcements in support of the Royal Sulu Army. Filipinos in Sabah who are not part of the Royal Sulu forces have reportedly joined the fighting in reaction to what they perceive as atrocities committed by the Malaysian government. Former MNLF member Hadji Acmad Bayam told the Manila Bulletin that MNLF forces may have a significant weapons arsenal hidden within Sabah’s thick jungles left behind by MNLF commanders who have moved in and out of the region over the years.

Allegations of political motives

Malaysia will soon hold a pivotal general election that pits incumbent Prime Najib-Op DaulatMinister Najib Razak against  Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Najib voiced suspicion as to why the Sulu rebels chose to pursue their long-standing claim to Sabah when the country was preparing to hold a general election.

Reuters cited sources within the Malaysian government who claimed that the gunmen were suspected to have links to factions that were unhappy with the Philippines’ recent peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), another breakaway group from the MNLF which today is widely recognised as the mainstay of the Moro movement. Malaysia acted as the facilitator for that 2012 peace agreement.

Kuala Lumpur has played a key role in facilitating peace talks between Manila and Mindanao since 2001, and the MNLF publicly opposed MILF’s Framework Agreement with Manila. Furthermore, Reuters cited an anonymous Filipino military officer who claimed that Sulu rebels were “invited to Sabah by a Malaysian opposition politician to discuss land issues”. Najib then ordered Malaysian intelligence officials to investigate claims that an opposition leader had a hand in the armed intrusion in Sabah. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim pressed charges against Malaysian broadcasters for running a story implicating his involvement in the insurgency, and vehemently denied his involvement.

Local analysts have criticized Ibrahim for accepting funds and training from US Government-linked foundations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), while pro-government mainstream media is routinely critical of Anwar’s links to foreign figures. Bloggers have also posted photographs of Anwar Ibrahim meeting with MNLF leader Nur Misuari, insinuating cooperation between the two in coordinating the Sulu insurgency.

Tian Chua, one of the leaders of of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition headed by Ibrahim, accusing the ruling party of having orchestrated the gun battle with Filipino militants, claiming that the incursion was believed to be a “planned conspiracy of the [UMNO] government” to divert attention and intimidate the people in the run-up to elections, prompting unanimous denials from the ruling party.

Filipino sources claim that the Sulu Sultanate’s incursion of Sabah is an attempt to undermine President Benigno Aquino in midterm elections scheduled in May. Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III ran as a senator allied to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during elections in 2007 and Filipino politicians allied to him are seen as pressuring Aquino to pardon his predecessor, who remains under house arrest for electoral fraud.

Sulu Sultan calls for US intervention

Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has told media in the Philippines that he wants the United Nations, the United States and the United Kingdom to intervene in his claim over Sabah. The Sultanate claims that the United States must intercede, as agreed upon in a 1915 agreement signed with then US colonial government in the Philippines that mandated the US provide “full protection” to the Sulu Sultan in exchange for exercising sovereignty over the kingdom as the colonial administration. As calls for intervention and accusations of plots abound, mudslinging is rampant between the ruling parties and oppositions of both Malaysia and the Philippines. The Sulu militants have put aside “responsible conduct” by attempting to legitimize their force by invoking historic claims to the land.

hishammuddin-hussein-in-lahad-datu-300x225The resource-rich state of Sabah is abundant in oil and gas reserves, which contribute to 14% of Malaysia’s natural gas and 30% of its crude oil reserves. Sabah’s fifteen oil wells produce as many as 192,000 barrels a day. Four new oilfields have been found in Sabah’s territorial waters over the last two years, and perhaps one of the motivations for the Sultan’s push to reclaim the territory is profit-driven. Even so, the highly unusual timing of the Sulu operation being so close to Malaysia’s general elections will naturally be perceived as suspect – and in following that line of thought, it is unsurprising that many are asking questions about the Sultanates’ arms sources and funding.

The Sulu Sultanate could have taken several alternative dialogue-based approaches with the nations involved to address this situation that would have yielded infinitely less destructive consequences for his followers and his cause. The insurgent approach taken by the militants undermines the Sultan’s claims entirely, and lends much credibility to alternative narratives that allude to the crisis being manufactured to bring about a conflict at a politically sensitive time. As figures of all political leanings ask themselves who stands to gain from this situation, there is not enough information available to make an accurate assessment.

Malaysia is not often faced with security crises, especially of the sort that this conflict could expand into if more Filipino militants take up arms. Malaysia’s upcoming general election is expected to be extremely close, and many fear that a wider crisis would delay polls. Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has spoken of foreign intervention as the only solution to the conflict, and wider war could likely be something he is trying to achieve.

As many Filipinos categorize the actions taken by Malaysia as “atrocities”, a credible threat exists in the prospect of wider war if MNLF soldiers establish a foothold in Sabah, or potentially even by conducting retaliatory attacks in Peninsular Malaysia population centers like Kuala Lumpur. While Malaysia’s position must continue to be firm, security forces must exercise restraint in quelling the insurgency to prevent the indiscriminate loss of life if the militants refuse to abandon their mission and turn over their arms.

Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at

RCI or White Paper on Lahad Datu Incursion?

March 14, 2013

RCI or White Paper on Lahad Datu Incursion?

by Bernama@

The Government does not dismiss the possibility of setting up a Royal hishammuddin-hussein-in-lahad-datu-300x225Commission of Inquiry (RCI) or opening a white paper to investigate claims that third parties are behind the terrorist intrusion in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein (right) said.

He said a thorough investigation needed to be done to find out the real motive for the intrusion, including if there were any parties that underwrote the terrorists from the southern Philippines to undermine the country’s stability and sovereignty.

“This can be done either by an RCI or opening a White Paper.I myself want to know who are the masterminds and who are funding the terrorists and did the planning because all these concern national security,” he said.

Hishammuddin said this at a press conference at the Sandakan Police Headquarters today after being briefed on the latest public order situation in Sandakan, the second largest town in Sabah, from Sandakan Police Chief ACP Rowell Marong. Meanwhile, he said overall, the security situation in Sabah including in Tawau, Semporna and Sandakan had improved.

Ali Hamsa al-MamakOn the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), he said a group led by Chief Secretary to the Government Dr Ali Hamsa (left) would be in Sabah tomorrow to identify the additional requirements for its establishment. He said enforcement in waters off Sabah’s east coast would also be stepped up to prevent illegal entry including via rat trails by Philippine nationals.

Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today announced that the ministry would take over responsibility for security along Sabah’s east coast covering 1,400km, from the Prime Minister’s Department.

Wisma Putra to discuss with Manila

On the arrest by a Philippines Navy patrol unit yesterday of 35 FilipinosPARLIMEN / ANIFAH AMAN / KIMANIS suspected to have ties with the Sulu terrorists, Hishammuddin said Wisma Putra would be discussing with Manila on the matter.

The Philippine media reported that the suspects were intercepted in two boats which were carrying weapons and explosives, in waters off Tawi-Tawi at 6.30am yesterday.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin also took time off to visit L/Cpl Mohd Zariman Ibrahim, Corporal Affendi Rusli and Corporal Khairul Anuar Md Isa who were injured in the Ops Daulat to rid Sabah of the terrorists and are receiving treatment at the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.

In KANGAR, Perlis’ Komuniti 1Malaysia (K1M) also urged the government to set up an RCI to get to the bottom of the armed intrusion. Its consultative chairperson Nordin Abdullah said the organisation sympathised with the families of the men who were killed in fighting the terrorists.

Fifty-six Sulu terrorists have been killed so far since the Ops Daulat offensive was launched while the security forces lost 10 men, eight from the Police and two from the military.