March 5, 2013
Multisectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today held a protest action near the Malaysian embassy in Makati to press for an immediate stop to the military operations against followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, asserting claim over the disputed Sabah territory. Bayan stressed that the claim of the followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is based on solid legal and historical grounds and should not be dismissed by either the Malaysian or the Philippine government.
“To avoid more bloodshed, we demand that the Malaysian government immediately halt its military offensive in Sabah. Kiram’s group includes women, and according to some reports, even minors. There is also a huge number of Filipinos in Sabah who have long been there and consider it their home. They too are becoming unwitting victims of the heightened militarization in affected towns and combat operations launched by the Malaysian government,” said Dr. Carol Araullo, chairperson of Bayan.
Araullo reiterated that the claim of the Sultanate of Sulu is valid as proven by historical facts and even documentary records. “There is a wealth of documentary evidence and there has never been any dispute over who originally had sovereignty over North Borneo now called Sabah, that is, the Sultanate of Sulu,” Araullo said.
The Bayan leader recalled that in 1962, the Sultan of Sulu ceded sovereignty over Sabah to the Philippines in order for the Philippine government to claim Sabah in international fora such as the United Nations and thereby protect the Sultanate’s claim of ownership. However when the British Empire granted independence to Malaysia in 1963, it included Sabah in the Federation of Malaysia falsely asserting that the Sulu Sultanate had earlier ceded Sabah to the British Empire.
“For the past fifty years Malaysia has exercised de facto sovereignty over the disputed territory. The Philippines, through inaction, has practically defaulted on its claim. But it does not mean that the Filipino people, including the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate, have also abandoned our assertion that Sabah is part of our national territory,” stressed Araullo.
Bayan said that these are strong and compelling reasons for the Malaysian and the Philippine governments to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Sabah through dialogue with the Sultanate instead of launching an all-out military offensive against Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Kiram and leader of the group that moved into the Lahad Datu village in Sabah three weeks ago to press their claim of ownership as well as the Philippines’ claim of sovereignty over Sabah. The clashes have already claimed the lives of 12 people from Kiram’s group as well as at least seven officers from Malaysian security forces.
“The immediate concern now should be the de-escalation of the armed clashes. There are reports that the conflict in Lahad Datu has already spread to other parts of Sabah involving Filipino communities that have long ago settled in these areas and are not involved in the standoff. But apparently, they are also being targeted by Malaysian authorities, especially the relatives of the Kirams, thus generating more tension and pushing the Sultanate’s followers to resort to arms to defend themselves,” said Araullo. ###