By : FMT STAFF
LAHAD DATU: A dastardly war to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia was not what Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III had planned. What he wanted was to meet top Malaysian officials and “discuss Sabah and propriety rights”.
But the situation had for some reason spiralled out of hand and has left 60 of his followers dead todate and bodies of Malaysian security forces allegedly mutilated.
Autonomous Muslim Mindanao’s acting governor Mujiv Hataman said today that the Kiram clan had expressed no indication of wanting to reclaim Sabah during its meeting on Feb 18, days after the intrusion made it to the news.
The Kiram clan, he said, only wanted to discuss the “unacceptable” rent which Putrajaya was paying the family for Sabah.
According to Hataman, Kiram IlI’s daughter Jacel had during a meeting on Feb 18 at Tausig City said that her family had “no plans” to reclaim Sabah.
He said the Kirams’ primary grouse was the paltry rent and the sultanate wanted the Malaysian government “to meet and discuss Sabah and propriety rights” with them.
“Princess Jacel said the rent was unacceptable; they are only being paid RM5,300 (about P70,000) for Sabah, when that amount could not even rent an apartment,” Philstar.com reported him as saying. Hataman said Jamulul and his spokesman Abraham Idijarani were also present at the meeting.
By the time Hataman met the Kirams again on Feb 26, armed conflict had broken out between the Royal Sulu Army holed up in Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu and Malaysian security forces.
Malaysia said gunfight began after some of the Sulu militants breached a security cordon. But the Kirams have denied this.
Leading the Sulu sultanate army is crown prince Agbimuddin.
The shoot-out last Friday ended a three-week long stand-off between the Sulu army and Malaysia, which had been preceded by secretive “negotiations”, details of which were not disclosed to the public.
While the whereabouts of Agbimuddin is still not known, Hataman said that he was informed yesterday that the former was “thinking” of a way to prevent further bloodshed in Sabah after Malaysia rejected a call by Jamalul for a unilateral ceasefire following a call for a peaceful resolution by United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon.
Philippine navy intercepts boats fleeing Sabah
Meanwhile, reports from Manila said that the Philippine navy today intercepted two boats carrying more than 100 people from Sabah and were heading for Tawi-Tawi.
Navy spokesman Lt Cmdr Gregory Fabic said that 121 people were on board the two boats that they intercepted at around 6.30am.
Fabic said that one boat was carrying 1,500 sacks of rice and assorted foodstuff and 80 people, while the other was carrying 1,600 sacks of rice and 41 people.
“They were heading for Bongao in Tawi-Tawi. Our ships escorted them to Bongao for proper disposition,” he said.
Fabic said that the 121 evacuees came from Sandakan in Sabah.
Earlier this week, a batch of Filipinos fleeing the conflict in Sabah arrived in Tawi-Tawi.
The Philippine and Malaysian navies have set up blockades in waters between the two countries as Malaysian security forces go after Sulu militants.
Tawi-Tawi worried over influx of refugees
In COTABATO CITY, local officials said a big fraction of the 800,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah are from the island towns of Tawi-Tawi, the nearest province from the island state.
The officials said that they are not prepared to handle the possible arrival of thousands of refugees in Tawi-Tawi once the crisis in Lahad Datu spreads to nearby areas in Sabah.
The officials said since Tawi-Tawi gets its supply of rice, petroleum products and many other consumer goods from Sabah, the escalation of hostilities between Kiram’s army and Malaysian security forces can seriously affect the lives of the local residents.
“While we understand, respect and honour the claims of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu over Sabah, we urge the sultan to take into account that aggression and violence should not be used to advance their cause,” the local officials said.
Tawi-Tawi governor Sadikul Sahali and leaders of the provinces signed today a manifesto urging Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu to put an end to the strife in Sabah.
“Anger will only exacerbate the situation. Divisive politics, racial prejudices and violent postures should not influence both sides,” the officials said in the manifesto.
The manifesto, which the Tawi-Tawi provincial government intends to send to Malacañang and the Malaysian government through its embassy in Manila, was also signed by representatives of the police and the military. (Agencies)