‘Let’s regain Sabah’

Former Senate president Ernesto Maceda said president Aquino should renew efforts to reclain Sabah from Malaysia.

(FMT) – MANILA: President Benigno Aquino should renew efforts to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia by bringing the matter before the United Nations (UN), a move that could also prevent the outbreak of violence between Malaysian troops and armed followers of the Sultan of Sulu province.

“It’s time to act to regain what is rightfully ours,” said former Senate president Ernesto Maceda on Sunday as he urged the government to immediately tap peaceful channels to avoid conflict.

“The Philippine government should now seriously consider bringing its claim to the United Nations . . . it has been neglected and sleeping for a long time,” the former senator stressed as the standoff between Malaysian security forces some 300 armed Filipinos from Mindanao, who came to Sabah last week to assert the sultanate’s claim continued.

The Manila Times says that a group of Muslim Filipinos had gone to Sabah to assert the historical claim of the sultanate of Sulu on the territory, which is located on the northern tip of Borneo Island.

Maceda said that “renewed government efforts is the only way to stop the followers of the Sultan of Sulu from taking up arms and invading Sabah to press their claim.”

“The people of the sultanate of Sulu have a legitimate claim to Sabah considering that the British and Malaysian governments used to pay rentals for Sabah to the sultan of Sulu,” he pointed out.


The senator said Philippines should press its claim on Sabah because history shows that Malaysia is only “renting” the island.

“We have not actually abandoned our claim to Sabah. In fact, until some years back, Malaysia actually paid the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu a fixed amount as rental for their occupation of Sabah,” Pimentel noted.

He explained that the country’s claim was only sidetracked by political events, particularly the outbreak of armed conflict in Mindanao, when the Moro National Liberation Front launched a separatist movement in the 1970s.

He proposed proposed that teachings about the country’s claim to Sabah should be added in school curricula to educate the new generation on the historical basis and current status of the claim.

It is to be noted that the Sultanate of Sulu ceded to the Philippine government its title and sovereignty to former president Diosdado Macapagal in 1962.


But as of Sunday, Malacañang remained non-committal on the revival of the country’s Sabah claim.

Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte kept a discreet distance from the issue on whether the government planned to field an emissary to one of the heirs, Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd, to ask him to recall his followers from Sabah and on whether Manila will actively seek talks to revive its claim.

Valte added that no comments are forthcoming until the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has fully briefed the executive.

Meanwhile, Valte said that the safety of the Filipinos in Sabah was the government’s main concern.

“The primary concern now is their safety and to resolve the incident peacefully,” Valte said, noting that the Philippines had received assurance from Malaysia that the government would encourage the group, which Manila has yet to identify, to leave the area peacefully.

Sabah Police chief Hamza Taib was quoted by local dailies as saying that police were negotiating with the group and expected the standoff to be resolved “very soon with the group returning to their home country.”

Malaysian police have set up a series of roadblocks along the route leading from Lahad Datu through palm oil plantations to the remote village where the gunmen are. Marine police were also patrolling the sea.

Reports identified the leader of the armed group as Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, former assistant district officer of Kudat during the time of former chief minister Tun Datu Mustapha Harun from 1967 to 1976.

Azzimudie, who was dressed in white robes, has yet to respond to requests by emissaries to “go home.”

Sultan Jamalul was expected to come by boat from Mindanao, while another sultan was expected to come in from Kuala Lumpur.