Mahathir and his role in the Sabah-Sulu crisis

( – Spooked of the Moro National Liberation Front’s (MNLF) inclusion of Sabah in the proposed Bangsamoro Republik and a plea from the Sulu Sultanate before the United Nations to give course to the Sabah claim, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad offered MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, in 2001, asylum in change for dropping support to the Sabah claim.

The Malaysian government also led then by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, in effect, “blackmailed” Misuari when he was arrested on Jampiras Island off Sabah in 2001 by asking the MNLF chief to sign a waiver that will bind him not to include Sabah in the proposed state that will cede from the Philippines.

An MNLF source told the Daily Tribune that after Misuari and six companions were arrested, Mahathir sent a supposed emissary who is a high-ranking Malaysian official to his detention cell to discuss terms for his asylum after a Philippine court issued an arrest warrant on him for instigating a 2001 rebellion in Sulu.

Misuari was elected the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor in 1996 but his rule ended in violence after he led a failed rebellion just as graft charges were being prepared against him during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) subsequently asked the Malaysian government to send Misuari to Saudi Arabia or Libya to avoid “political persecution” from the Philippine government.

Mahathir dismissed Nur’s exile but also rejected giving him asylum.

Aziz Shamsuddin, Mahathir’s link man with the MNLF, seen here with Communist leader Abdullah CD

“We cannot entertain asylum as Misuari had not used his powers correctly although we provide support for him in the past for his bid on autonomy that saw the creation of the ARMM,” he noted.
He was then deported back to the Philippines before being arrested in 2007 on terrorism charges.

Zambo crisis linked

Misuari resurfaced sometime in 2015 to lead the siege of Zamboanga City in September 2013. Among the leaders of the siege was the so-called Sulu State Revolutionary Command (SSRC) led by Ustadz Habier Malik and Khaid Ajibon, whose group continues to recognize Nur Misuari as MNLF Chairman.

A standoff started when MNLF led by Misuari attempted to raise the flag of the self-proclaimed Bangsamoro Republik at Zamboanga City Hall.

Misuari declared independence of the breakaway state on 12 August 2013 in Talipao, Sulu.

Clashes between the MNLF and a combined force of the military and the police caused the displacement of more than 100,000 people, the occupation of several barangays (villages) by the MNLF, the deaths of several civilians, the closure of the Zamboanga International Airport, and a reduction of economic activity in the city.

Mahathir clearly tried to interfere and seized the opportunity to stamp down a fierce supporter of the Sabah claim in Misuari as he was offered to “sign a waiver not to include Sabah in the proposed new state.”

“Misuari immediately turned down the offer saying that he is not the right person to drop the claim because the disputed territory belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu,” the source said.

READ MORE HERE: Nur Misuari alleges Malaysian leaders involved in the Sipadan kidnapping

After the visit, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that although there is no extradition treaty, Malaysian was ready to turn over Misuari to the Philippine government to face trial.

Razak also sent agent

After the Zamboanga siege, another emissary allegedly sent this time by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sought a fresh dialogue with leaders of the MNLF over the inclusion of Sabah And Sarawak in the declaration of an independent Bangsamoro Republik.

The source who is privy to the backdoor negotiations said Malaysia also wanted a “compromise” with the MNLF to exclude Sabah and Sarawak from the Bangsamoro territory which was submitted to the United Nations (UN) committee on decolonization.

“Malaysia and MNLF have been close allies in the past, in fact the MNLF was allowed to set training camps in the early 70s and Malaysia wanted to revive the alliance,” a source said.

Misuari’s Bangsamoro Republik comprised of Basilan, Mindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi including the state of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia.

Misuari’s Bangsamoro

The declaration was made two months before the MNLF attempted to raise its flag in Zamboanga city that triggered a three week fighting leading to hundreds of people dead.

The source said the inclusion of Sabah is backed up by proprietary rights of the Sultan of Sulu which up to this time is recognized by Malaysia.

“The MNLF’s mass base in Sabah includes members of the Royal Sulu Army which are now embedded in the island,” the source said.

The MNLF source clarified the MNLF had renounced war in attaining its political objective and will adopt the so-called “Kosovo” style in pursuing the independence of the Bangsamoro Republik that is based on representations with multinational bodies such as the UN.

“Historically Sabah and Sarawak were part of the Sultanate of Sulu and the case is now pending before the UN,” the source said.