Thursday October 7, 2004

Another royal group lays claim to Sabah

MANILA - A group claiming to be the real heirs to one of South-east Asia's more obscure royal houses stepped forward yesterday, saying it had written to the United Nations about its claim on Sabah.
Mr Abdul Patta Hadjibun, a spokesman for the families of the nine heirs of the late Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, said the group had written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
'We realised that the Philippine government is not serious in pursuing this claim,' he told reporters in Manila, adding that the heirs want US$25 billion (S$42 billion) in compensation from Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Hadjibun also rejected a claim made by Mr Rodinood Julaspi Kiram II, who was crowned as the new Sultan of Sulu on Sunday.
The latter had used the occasion to press his family's claim to Sabah, saying that he would ask the World Court to intervene.
He also accused Malaysia of illegally occupying Sabah, whose waters are rich in oil.
'I will fight for my family's rights in the World Court,' he told hundreds of followers outside a mosque in Quezon City.
Mr Hadjibun said Mr Julaspi was 'bogus' and had no blood ties to the late sultan.
He said the nine genuine heirs were recognised in a 1939 British court judgment which ordered the crown colony to pay an annual lease of RM5,300 (S$2,360) to the sultan's family.
The descendants of the nine heirs now number around 70.
Many of South-east Asia's islands were governed by Muslim princes before the arrival of European colonial powers. Some princely families retained limited powers under colonial rule.
The Sultanate of Sulu in the southern Philippines obtained Sabah from the Sultanate of Brunei as a gift for helping to put down a rebellion.
The British leased Sabah, which eventually helped form the Malaysian federation in 1963.
Malaysia's Deputy Foreign Minister Joseph Salang Gandum shrugged off Mr Julaspi's claim on Monday, and said Sabah was an integral part of Malaysia.
'Malaysia's stance is very clear. Sabah is always an integral part of Malaysia and Sabahans are very much Malaysians as anybody else,' he said.
He also said that Malaysia had good ties with the Philippines, and added: 'I am sure the sultan is acting unilaterally.' -- Reuters
Monday October 4, 2004

Philippine Sultan Vows to Get Back Malaysian Sabah

MANILA (Reuters) - The newly crowned sultan of Sulu in the southern Philippines said Sunday he will fight to get back the state of Sabah from Malaysian control, claiming territorial rights over the North Borneo territory.
"I will fight for my family's rights in the World Court," Rodinood Julaspi Kiram II told hundreds of followers outside a mosque in Quezon City, where he was crowned the 29th sultan of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.
"Malaysia is illegally occupying Sabah. Sabah is ours, we will take it back."
Kiram said he was appalled to watch television images of Filipino women and children being maltreated by Malaysian police in several Sabah communities. Tens of thousands of Filipinos in Sabah have been sent back home since 2002.
"The Malaysians have no authority to expel Filipinos from Sabah because the territory belongs to us," he said, adding he would enlist the help of the Philippine government to bring his case to the International Court of Justice.
Kiram, 56, is only now ascending to the sultanate's throne, five years after his father's death, because of confusion over succession rules. The last Sultan of Sulu left about 70 families as heirs.
Kiram said Malaysia helped Muslim rebels fight Manila in the 1970s, providing the separatists with sanctuaries, training bases, weapons and moral support. He said he knew about the Malaysia's role in the rebellion because he was a former guerrilla leader himself.
Kiram said Malaysia has recently changed strategy and agreed to broker peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Muslim rebels only to protect its claims on Sabah.
Monday, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will host a private dinner with Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's former prime minister, due to address a business conference this week.
Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said Arroyo will thank Mahathir for his key role in brokering talks between government and Muslim rebels, due to resume this month in Kuala Lumpur.
The dispute over Sabah is among long standing irritants in ties between the two Southeast Asian nations, but was placed on the backburners as trade and investment links grew in the early 1990s.
The Sultanate of Sulu obtained Sabah from the Sultanate of Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion in the Borneo island. The British leased Sabah and transferred control over the territory to Malaysia after the end of Second World War.
Even after Sabah became part of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur still pays an annual rent of 5,000 ringgit ($1,315) to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.
In the 1960s, the Philippines tried and failed to claim ownership of Sabah, including a bungled covert operation that helped trigger a Muslim rebellion in the 1970s.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"