Malaysia doesn’t owe anyone money for Sabah

As Sabah is globally recognised as part of Malaysia, Malaysia is in no way obliged to entertain the claims of the descendants of a lost sovereign.

Mohd Hazmi Mohd Rusli & Mohd Ridwan Talib, MalaysiaNow

The world has acknowledged Malaysia’s sovereignty over Sabah and as a component state of the federation, Malaysia invested billions of ringgit to develop Sabah, establishing a working government to administer this territory.

Since 1878, the heirs of the Sulu sultanate have not contributed significantly to the political stablity and economic development of Sabah. When Sabah was invaded by Japan, they were nowhere to be seen, fighting for their so-called land.

Malaysia does not owe anyone money for Sabah, especially not the heirs of the forgone sultanate of Sulu.

The 1878 treaty signed between the then sultan of Sulu and two British agents, Baron Von Overbeck and Alfred Dent, on the cession of Sabah was utilised by the heirs of Kiram to claim “cession money” from Malaysia. In fact, the Sulu sultanate was disbanded by the Americans in 1915 via the Carpenter Accord.

During the Japanese occupation in 1941, Sabah was made a Japanese colony and the Japanese empire obviously did not pay any “cession money” to the heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate.

Sabah gained independence when it was federated into Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

Malaysia consistently paid the so-called “cession money” or “compensation money” amounting to RM5,300 to the heirs of Kiram until 2013. This was a meagre sum, amounting to RM441.67 per month. Malaysians are paying even higher amounts of money for their housing loans and rent, compared to the sum paid to the heirs of Kiram.

Malaysia does not owe anyone money for Sabah because:

– Malaysia is sovereign over Sabah;

– The Sulu sultanate was disbanded in 1915;

– The 1878 treaty was invalidated as Sabah became a Japanese colony in 1941;

– The Spanish arbitation is illegal; and

– There was no arbitration clause in the 1878 agreement and arbitration cannot be forced upon parties.

The 1939 case

In 1939, the heirs of the sultan of Sulu, i.e. the predecessors of the current generation of Kiram’s family, referred to the High Court of Sandakan, Sabah regarding a dispute under the Deed of Cession 1878. The judge confirmed the status of cession money under the said agreement. Accordingly, by bringing the suit at the North Borneo High Court, the heirs of the defunct sultanate of Sulu acknowledged the jurisdiction of the Malaysian court with regards to solving any issues related to the agreement.

So why do the so-called heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate now resort to arbitration in Spain? The significance of the 1939 case is that the heirs of the non-existent sultan of Sulu had acknowledged Malaysia/the Malaysian court as the rightful venue to adjudicate any issues arising from the agreement. Therefore, as the rightful heirs of the obsolete sultanate and the successors to the parties in the 1939 suit, the current generation of the Kiram family is legally bound by the decision made in 1939.

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