Sulu heirs’ counsel welcomes SolGen opinion

The London-based lawyer appointed by the eight legally-appointed descendants of Sultan Jamau Kiram II welcomed the statement of Solicitor General (SolGen), Menardo Guevarra, that the arbitration case is a private claim by the Sultan’s heirs with Malaysia and that it is not an issue of sovereignty or territory at the moment.

Paul Cohen of the 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, in a statement sent to the Daily Tribune, said they are grateful for the SolGen’s studied opinion and they fully support his assessment.

“Despite media reports to the contrary and precisely because this is a private commercial matter, my client has not involved Philippine government assistance in enforcing arbitration award,” he said.

“I also note that certain lawyers and spokespeople have commented to the Philippine media outlets purporting to speak on behalf of my clients. These persons are not affiliated with the ongoing proceedings and do not represent my clients,” he said.

Cohen said his co-counsel in the Philippines, lawyer Gabriel Benedicto of the Romulo Mabanata, Sayoc and De Los Angeles law firm is the one authorized to speak for the claimants.

“My clients are grateful for the arbitration award but recognize that much remains to be done, given that the matter is the subject of ongoing legal action in several jurisdictions,” Cohen said.

Meanwhile, the saga of the 200 Tausug warriors reoccupying their ancestral land in Lahad Datu in Sabah was the highlight of the Malaysians’ decision to cut off the yearly lease of Sabah eventually triggering the decision of the French Arbitral court granting a $ 14.9 billion award to the heirs of Sultanate of Sulu.

An official of the Sulu Sultanate said the journey to Sabah by the so-called “200 Lahad Datu warriors ‘was written in blood and one of the warriors has fulfilled his original mission to infiltrate Sabah to reassert their proprietary rights over the disputed territory.

Five decades after he underwent Jabidah Commando training in Corregidor, a Tausug retired army lieutenant finally landed on the shoreline of Lahad Datu Sabah on 15 February 2013 with 230 strong Sultanate Royal Army to reclaim their ancestral lands from Malaysia.

The sultanate official said Retired Army Lt. Hadji Musa Abdullah was the second in Command to the late Crown Prince Rajah Muda Agdimuddin when the so-called “Lahad Datu 200 warriors” occupied a village in Lahad Datu.

Abdullah was among the first batch of trainees of the infamous Jabidah Commando trained, to infiltrate Sabah. He was in Cebu during the reported killing of his comrades in 1968 and later on enlisted as a regular soldier assigned with the Presidential Security Group.

“The journey to Lahad Datu was to peacefully settle and reclaim their ancestral lands but upon arrival they were surrounded by seven battalions of ground troops, backed up by tanks, jet planes, combat helicopters and gun boats,” the official said.

Abdullah, who was trained in jungle warfare with 80 fighters, was able to slip from the military dragnet while Malaysian Forces negotiated for the surrender of the remaining group.

On the third day, a group of negotiators met with Rajah Muda but a sniper fired and missed his target, triggering hand-to-hand combat that resulted in the death of at least 10 Malaysian and 13 Tausug warriors.

“It was the Malaysians who fired the first shot,” the he said.

Abdullah and his group engaged the Malaysian forces in a firefight while they were retreating into the jungle.

Reports said a Malaysian fighter jet plane spotted the group of Abdullah and fired an air-to-ground missile which accidentally hit a convoy of Malaysian ground forces.

The Malaysian forces suffered heavy casualties from their own air force,” he said.

During the seven-day skirmishes, at least 60 Tausug warriors were killed by military and police snipers before they finally withdrew from Lahad Datu and returned to Sulu including Rajah Muda.

Abdullah and his group stayed behind and disappeared into the jungles of Sabah.

“He was declared missing,” the official said without elaborating.

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