by Jamal Ashley
Firefight broke out between the Malaysian forces and the forces of Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, the Rajah Muda (Crown Prince) of the Sultanate of Sulu in Southern Philippines around 10:00 am Friday, according to media interviews with the Rajah Muda in Lahad Datu and the Sultan of Sulu in Manila.
The Philippine government’s Department of Foreign Affairs announced that there were no casualties.
The Kirams said there have been casualties on their side but they could not confirm if there were casualties on the Malaysian side. Abraham Ijirani, the Sultan’s spokesman said that ten of Raja Muda’s people were killed, including one woman. Four are wounded.
According to sources at Sandakan Hospital in Sandakan, Sabah, there now 20 Malaysian dead, as of 1: 40 pm.
The Lahad Datu airport is closed and the military, not the police, are the ones fighting the Moros. Another source in Sabah said that fighting has now erupted in Kunak, a small town near Lahad Datu.
The Rajah Muda and his men, some 200 of them, reportedly arrived in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia on Feb. 11, 2013. The Malaysian authorities alleged that the men from Sulu were armed.
The Malaysian authorities notified the Philippine government about the situation and asked that the Filipinos deal with the Rajah Muda’s men initially.
Emissaries from the Malaysian and Philippine governments talked with the Rajah Muda but no positive results were obtained.
HOME IN SABAH
The Sultan of Sulu, Jamal ul Kiram III announced that his brother, the Rajah Muda and his men simply went home, as Sabah has been home to the people of Sulu since the 1650s when the Sultanate of Brunei gave Sabah and Palawan to the Sultanate of Sulu in compensation for helping the Brunei Sultan fight a war against a rival claimant to the Brunei throne.
In 1878, the Sultanate leased Sabah to Baron von Overbeck and Alfred Dent for an annual fee. Overbeck and Dent later transferred the lease to the British North Borneo Company. The company continued paying the rent.
All the while, the British government acknowledged the sovereignty of the Sulu Sultan over Sabah. In 1946, 4 days after the US gave the Philippines, which included Sulu, independence, Great Britain announced it was taking over the “sovereignty” of North Borneo by virtue of an agreement with the British North Borneo Company. The Philippine government protested.
In 1957, Great Britain gave its Malay colonies independence. The Malay sultanates in what is now West Malaysia formed themselves into a nation-state called MALAYA. The Sulu royalty protested and revoked its lease agreement to the British North Borneo Company.
In 1963, with the help of Britain, Malaya incorporated Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore to form the Federation of Malaysia. The Sulu Sultanate temporarily transferred its sovereign rights over Sabah to the Philippines. President Diosdado Macapagal protested the inclusion of Sabah into Malaysia and sent a delegation to London.
Officially, the Philippine government has not dropped its claim to Sabah. The Sabah state continues to pay rental fee, which it calls “cession money”, to the Sultanate upto today.
On Feb. 26, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in a press conference, called on the Sultan of Sulu to ask his brother and his men to stand down and go back to Sulu.. He sent ships to fetch the Moros. He also threatened to file charges against the Sultan and his people.
The President practically dropped the Philippines’ claim on Sabah by calling it “a hopeless cause”.
The Rajah Muda refused to budge as he wants Malaysia to start negotiating regarding Sabah.
According to a source in Sabah, a Tausug engineer who refused to be identified for fear of his safety, the Malaysian authorities had cordoned off the area since a week ago, and laid siege to the Moros.
“There is news blackout in Malaysia,” he says. He said that aside from the 300 or so armed men around the Rajah Muda, there are around 800 armed men in a nearby town named Sampurna and at least 1000 more armed and ready in the nearby islands in the Sulu Sea,
He says that no news reporters are allowed in Lahad Datu.
A Filipino traveler in Kuala Lumpur said that there are many people sympathetic to the Kirams. “There are hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tausugs in Sabah and they support the Sultan,” he said. (end)