LLEGAL ....While claims of today's airstrikes in Lahad Datu were 'llegal', a Kiram family member spoke of a Malaysian government approved 'settlement' stuck in a 'bank' in Malaysia.
By : FMT STAFF
LAHAD DATU: Even as the Philippine media reported that this morning’s airstrikes 'missed' their targets – which was the forces of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram – in Kampung Tandao and neighbouring villages, a Manila senator urged his government to protect its citizens in Sabah.
Senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr said the legality of the Kirams’ claim on Sabah was second to the fact that the people under attack were Filipinos.
“Whatever else the issue there [in Sabah] may be, the Sultan of Sulu and his people are Filipino citizens and, by virtue of that fact, they deserve protection from the government of the Philippines.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens,” he said, alluding to Manila’s stand seen as 'non-committal'.
Manila has urged the Sulu intruders in Sabah – in a three-week standoff which ended in bloody clashes last Friday and continued through the weekend – to surrender unconditionally but the call was mocked by Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Newsportal ABS-CBN reported that hours before the Malaysian army began their assault on Kampung Tanduo, the site of Friday’s bloody clashes which killed two Malaysian police commandos, the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has tried to ask the Malaysian government for 'maximum tolerance'.
Strangely enough there have been no official disclosures of body counts or casualties following the 7am airstrikes and the ground assault against the armed intruders.
All that is known is that Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar has declared that the police and army had achieved their objectives.
Meanwhile, an international law professor in the University of Philippines, Harry Roque, said in Manila that the airstrikes by Malaysian security forces against the Kirams’ followers were 'illegal' and a 'wrong act'.
He hinted that the Malaysian government had used excessive force in dealing with the members of the Sultanate royal army who are now holed up in Lahad Datu.
“Malaysian law enforcement officials should, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to force, and in particular, the resort to airstrikes,” the Philippines Star quoted him as saying.
In a related issue, the Kirams have urged President Benigno Aquino to prove his claims that there was a third party backing their Sabah claim.
Jamalul’s daughter Jacel told the Asian News Network that Aquino’s latest comments on the Lahad Datu crisis was 'speculative'.
“If Aquino thinks someone’s behind this, we challenge him to prove it,” she said.
Aquino said yesterday there were “definite signs” of a conspiracy in the Kirams’ move to press their Sabah claims.
He pointed out that the Kirams would have had to spend 'a least' 100,000 pesos (RM7,611) to hire a large boat to bring forces into Lahad Datu. And according to their (Manila’s) 'intelligence' reports, the Kirams had used two large boats and a speedboat to ferry their men to Lahad Datu.
He said since Jamalul was already on government aid through the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for his regular dialysis, it was unlikely that the sultan could have financed the assault on his own.
Aquino also said that the Philippine authorities were monitoring 'persons of interest' who were pushing for Kirams’ claim on Sabah.
In Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had on Sunday said that Malaysia and the Philippines were investigating reports linking the Sulu incursion to the opposition’s campaign to give Sabah autonomy if it wins in the general election.
Najib said he was puzzled as to why the armed men came to Sabah at a time when the country was about to hold the polls and when the Sulu Sultanate had already laid claim to Sabah a long time ago.
“All avenues must be investigated. [Philippine] President [Benigno S] Aquino also wants to know the truth,” said Najib, alluding to media reports in the Philippines that Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim was linked to the Lahad Datu invasion.
Meanwhile, another Kiram family member in Manila claimed that the whole incident was a 'drama' but declined to offer details.
Princess Maryam Kiram, however, said that she has been talking with Malaysian officials and an agreement has already been reached regarding the increase of the rent for Sabah.
“I am now negotiating some form of compensation from the Malaysian government to help develop the ancestral lands [of the Sulu families],” she reportedly told a press conference in Makati.
Quoting her, PhilStar.Com said that the Malaysian government 'was receptive' and was preparing 'a good settlement'.
According to Maryam, she visited Malaysia earlier this year for the release of the funds.
“The funds were to be in my hands on Jan 11, but unfortunately it was delayed for unknown reason,” she said.
She added that the funds were supposed to have been deposited in a designated bank with clearance from the Bank Negara.
Meanwhile, the sultanate of Sulu disputed the claims of Malaysian security forces that they had routed the group led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, which came under attack in Lahad Datu town in Sabah.
The assault by Malaysian security forces, which included airstrikes and armour, began early today and, by noon, police and military officials in Sabah were reported in Malaysian media as saying the group of Agbimuddin, brother and crown prince of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who had been holed up in the village of Tanduo since early last month, had been defeated and that mopping-up operations were taking place.
But at a press briefing in the sultan’s Maharlika Village home, Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s spokesman, spoke to Agbimuddin by phone in front of reporters.
“Raja Muda called up. Now this will put to rest the black propaganda being waged by the Malaysian government that our brothers were obliterated by the Malaysian police and military. Raja Muda and his followers are all alive and still kicking,” Idjirani said.
He described Agbimuddin as a 'fox', constantly moving from one place to another to evade the Malaysian forces, the InterAksyon.com news portal reported an hour ago.
Earlier, Idjarani also claimed Agbimuddin had said the bombs dropped by the Malaysian air force had not hit their positions but had, instead, fallen on security forces that had massed up for the assault.
But Malaysian authorities claimed their forces had not suffered a single casualty.