CLARITY.... 'Cession money to sultan's heir was for handover of Sabah'
By : HANA NAZ HARUN
KUALA LUMPUR: FOREIGN Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman has debunked claims that the RM5,300 annual payment made to the heir of the sultan of Sulu is for the rental of Sabah to Malaysia.
In TV3's Soal Jawab programme on Wednesday night, with Media Prima executive director (news and editorial operations) Datuk Ahmad A. Talib, Anifah said the payment of cession money was for the handover of Sabah.
"The 1878 agreement between Alfred Dent and Baron von Overbeck of the British North Borneo Company and the sultan of Sulu at that time stated that the sultan of Sulu ceded the region of North Borneo permanently, and the heir is entitled to receive annual payment of 5,300 Mexican Pesos. It is not payment for rent, but as cession.
"We have never recognised any outside claims that Sabah does not belong to Malaysia and these claims are non-negotiable. I feel sad because this group is claiming that Sabah is theirs.
"Let me stress that there will be no compromise of our country's sovereignty and integrity," he added.
Anifah said Sabah was recognised by the United Nations as a part of Malaysia.
He said both he and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario were puzzled as to why the "sultanate" was staking a claim over Sabah at a time when both countries would be facing general elections.
"This case has been weathered. We (he and del Rosario) are questioning why this incident is happening now," he added.
On reports that a specific party had "invited" the terrorists into Malaysia, Anifah said there was a possibility certain parties might take advantage to create a serious crime for their own political interests.
He quoted a report from Reuters which said: "Another Philippine military officer said the men were followers of the heirs of the sultan of Sulu -- an island group off the southern Philippines -- who had been invited to Sabah by a Malaysian opposition politician to discuss land issues."
To this Anifah asked, "Could there be a possibility that the report by Reuters has its basis with what is happening?"
The allegations, he said, did not come from Malaysia but came from someone in the Philippines.
He said he had suggested that del Rosario conduct investigations to ascertain the cause.
"Maybe there are certain parties that do not want Malaysia or the leadership of the Malaysian government to be recognised.
"It is not impossible that there are people who are spiteful of the Barisan Nasional leadership led by our prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, which has excelled and gained recognition internationally."
Anifah added that the intruders were labelled terrorists because they had come into the country illegally armed with weapons and engaged our security forces in armed conflict.
"They have no respect for our authorities and human rights. This is a terrorist act. Even with numerous discussions and dialogue sessions with the Philippine foreign affairs secretary, what has happened cannot be forgiven.
"However, both del Rosario and I agree that we will continue discussing the best possible way to resolve this matter without further bloodshed," he said, adding that Malaysia had given leeway and extended the deadline to surrender four times.
Many people had asked why the deadline was extended four times and Anifah explained that the prime minister had said that if the Malaysian government does not give their best efforts to solve the crisis, worse things might take place.
Anifah clarified that extending the deadline did not mean that the Malaysian armed forces were weak, but it was to respect the strong bilateral ties between Malaysia and the Philippines.
"Both Najib and President (Benigno) Aquino want it solved in the best way, thus agreed that we will work out the best diplomatic way to end it.
"President Aquino had also urged the terrorists to surrender and return to the Philippines, and had promised us that legal action will be taken against the terrorists.
"Only if needed and if both countries agree, will we proceed with an extradition order which will resolve it faster and easier."
Anifah said that even though Malaysia does not have an extradition treaty with the Philippines, extradition could be done in the spirit of Asean and would depend on what was best for both nations.
While defending the nation, Anifah said a settlement could not be done without considering the relationship Malaysia has with neighbouring countries.
"We are lucky to be living in a country that is free from natural disasters, and sometimes we are ungrateful for the blessings that we have.
"This is a challenge that we have to face together and be united to safeguard the sovereignty of our country and eliminate personal gains for the benefit of our future generations." (NST)