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Malaysia ‘still willing’ to negotiate for Sabah

Aldrin Cardona

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Despite Malaysia’s note verbal rejecting the Philippines’ claim on Sabah, the Sultanate of Sulu believes Kuala Lumpur is still willing to negotiate with Manila and the rightful Filipino heirs who own the island.

That “rightful” is the keyword to the possible negotiations was emphasized on Thursday by Wazir Amroussi Rasul, the Sultanate’s Prime Minister, who also called on President Duterte to make the Sabah issue a part of his priorities.

The note verbale submitted by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations last week said Kuala Lumpur “has never recognized the Republic of the Philippines’ claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah, formerly known as North Borneo.”

“There are now many pretenders to the throne of Sulu,” Wazir Rasul said. “There is only one Sultan of Sulu. He is Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, direct descendant of Sultan Mahakuttah and Sultan Esmail — father and grandfather of Sultan Muedzul Lail.”

Rasul slammed reports (not in Daily Tribune) that attributed the Sabah claim to unknown personalities.

“He (claimant) misrepresented himself as the ‘paramount sultan.’ It is a title unheard of. But it seems he is supported by some politicians in the province. Our sultans have always come from the Kiram family,” Rasul stated.

Stop circus
The Wazir, however, said President Rodrigo Duterte can “stop this circus” by recognizing Sultan Kiram like the previous administrations have recognized his father and grandfather.

“Please note that Malaysia is willing to negotiate… but just with one united group,” he said. “It could also be Malaysia’s strategy, knowing that there are many pretenders to the throne.”

Rasul insisted that Malaysia should recognize the sovereign and proprietary rights of the Sultan.

“It’s like if a Malaysian owns a condominium unit in the Philippines, he has all the proprietary rights or lease on the unit even if it is under Philippine jurisdiction,” he said.

The Sultanate’s claim received a boost recently after Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. disclosed his plan to revive the Office of the North Borneo Affairs of the DFA.

This comes after Malacañang had announced that it is not dropping the country’s and Sulu’s claim on Sabah.

Sabah was leased by the Sultan’s great-grandfather Barradudin Kiram to the British North Borneo Company in 1878. The company, however, surrendered the island to Malaysia when it federated with Sarawak, Singapore and Sabah in 1963. The federation kicked out Singapore in 1964.

Sovereignty surrendered
The Sultanate of Sulu had surrendered Sabah’s sovereignty with a caveat to the Philippine government in 1962, a year before the Malaysian federation came to form.

The Sabah sovereignty’s surrender to the Philippine government was on the condition that the Kiram family can withdraw from the deal and take full ownership of and sovereignty over Sabah “if the government would not be able to fulfill its part of the agreement.”

But the country has been seeking to reclaim the island as early as 1950 when then Congressman Macapagal filed a resolution for its claim with fellow lawmakers Arturo Tolentino, Arsenio Lacson and Hadji Gulamu Rasul — grandfather of the present Wazir Amroussi Rasul.

Macapagal was consistent in his desire to reclaim Sabah when he revived the effort in 1962. But it strained the country’s relations with Malaysia.

The DFA’s ONBA was created to handle the country’s claim on the island during Macapagal’s presidency.

The DFA was then led by the Vice President and concurrent Foreign Affairs Secretary Emmanuel Pelaez.

The claim stayed alive even after Macapagal as the late President Ferdinand Marcos kept the ONBA functioning. The DFA arm has been dormant for so long after that.

Meanwhile, the reactivation of the Office of Sulu and North Borneo (ONB) at the DFA is expected to expose fake heirs of the Sultanate who might be helping Malaysia and may have something to with the mysterious fire that gutted the office in 2004.

The source, who was closely coordinating with the office before it was shut down, told the Daily Tribune that ONB was the repository of original documents on the Sabah claim which was hit by fire in 2004.

He said that it was then acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Albert who actually ordered the revival of the Sabah desk on March 2004 to undertake research on legal and historical aspect of the claim.

On mid-July of the same year, Albert and then Malaysian foreign minister Sayed Albar held talks on the Sabah issue where Datu Aliuddin Kiram, vice chair of the Sultanate demanded the return of Sabah and the payment of 25 billion US Dollars for the exploitation of Sabah natural resources.

However, a day before the meeting a fire broke out canceling the meeting.

The source said when the ONB was still operating it was closely coordinating with nine heirs whose blood lines were officially documented by the DFA.

“A DFA official who is still with the government has the official list of the blood line of the Sultanate since the lease agreed was forged by the Sultanate and the British North Borneo.”

with PERSEUS ECHEMINADA

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