The Lahad Datu incident of 2013 has come to haunt the nation as a result of the recent spat between Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. over his “Sabah is not in Malaysia” tweet.
In 2013, some 200 or so members of the Royal Sulu Army of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III launched a virtual suicide mission to enforce the Philippine claim over Sabah that resulted in the death of more than 60 Tausugs, who supported the heir of the former Sabah ruler.
The sultanate had ceded Sabah to the Philippine government, making the age-old conflict a matter of sovereignty.
Special Ambassador to Sabah Wencelito Andanar said Locsin can’t be faulted for his social media comment, since he was stating a government position that Sabah belongs to the Philippines by historic and legal title.
“The Philippine Constitution says so, and in 2011, our Supreme Court ruled that the Philippines’ claim to Sabah subsists. Earlier in 1939 the High Court of North Borneo (Sabah) identified the nine heirs (to Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram II who was childless) entitled to the annual rentals,” according to Andanar.
An aberration, however, was the inaction of former President Noynoy Aquino in the course of the skirmishes between the sultanate loyalists and the Malaysian forces that was a virtual surrender of sovereignty, as Aquino merely followed the dictates of then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was recently indicted for corruption.
Andanar recalled his conversations with the late Pastor Boy Saycon, who was senior adviser to the sultanate. Saycon revealed that Aquino’s failure “to lend sympathetic ears to Kiram led Raja Muda Agbimuddin to make a symbolic landing at Lahad Datu to proclaim ‘this land is mine.’”
Raja Muda is the crown prince and heir apparent of Kiram, whose whereabouts remain a mystery, after Malaysia quelled the ragtag army whose members mostly carried weapons of antiquity, such as swords and bolos.
Malaysia launched then an “Operation Sovereignty” to sweep the members of the sultanate army, while launching crackdowns on the predominantly Filipino communities in the territory.
All of that happened without Noynoy lifting a finger to protect the welfare of Filipinos. Instead, he echoed Malaysian officials in condemning the royal army’s incursion and supported the filing of charges against Agbimuddin’s group.
Andanar said Razak and the Aquino clan have strong political bonds.
The Aquinos, from the late Senator Ninoy and to his son President Noynoy, are friends of the family of the Sultan of Johore.
Razak is a Member of Parliament representing the State of Pahang, and the wife of the Sultan of Pahang is the sister of the Sultan of Johore, Andanar said of the links between Noynoy and Razak.
Saycon was also the same person who revealed that a big slice of the revenues of Sabah goes into a secret slush fund, which has in it some $3 billion.
The fund is meant, according to the Sulu monarch’s adviser, to quell unrest in the territory and to silence Philippine officials regarding the claim.
Malaysia had been paying 5,000 ringgit to the sultanate yearly as lease under an 1878 agreement, but altogether stopped the compensation after the tragic 2013 incident.
Saycon said the sultanate accepted the Malaysian checks, but did not encash these, which are kept as evidence to back the claim to Sabah.
The issue has been put off for too long and it is now crying for closure.