Feb 23, 2013

Philippines asks Malaysia to extend deadline

Manila: The Philippines’ foreign affairs department asked Malaysia’s foreign ministry to extend the deadline from February 22 to February 26 for the 300 followers of Sultanate of Sulu to end their occupation of a village in Sabah’s town.

On Friday, Manila’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said he called up his counterpart Kuala Lumpur’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, to allow the 300 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram, including his brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, until Tuesday to leave Tanduao village in Sabah.

“There are negotiations with the family [of Kiram] and hopefully that goes well and there is a peaceful withdrawal [of his followers from Tanduao Village],” del Rosario said.

Both Malaysian and Philippine government officials expressed hope to resolve peacefully the takeover crisis which began two weeks ago.

In a press conference at the Blue Mosque in southern suburban Taguig, Kiram said he wanted peace talks to ensue between the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia, in a neutral country.

In 1658, the Sultan of Brunei gave a portion of Sabah to the old Sultan of Sulu, for the latter’s role in quelling a rebellion there.

The Sultanate of Sulu leased northern Borneo to European colonials in the 1870s. Sabah was given back by the United Kingdom and became a state of Malaysia, at the end of the country’s colonial rule. Despite that, heirs of the Sultan of Sulu continue to receive lease payments for Sabah in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (Dh6,416).

Noting what will happen two weeks after the occupation of Tanduao village, Kiram said his followers were instructed not to fire their arms, but to stay where they are.

Earlier, Malaysia’s Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussain said that Malaysian forces remained on top of the situation.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy intensified border patrol between Malaysia’s Sabah and southern Philippines’ Tawi-Tawi to prevent more Filipino-Muslims from going to the occupied area.

Six naval vessels, a Philippine Navy Islander aircraft, and vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard were sent to the area to stop followers of the Sultan of Sulu from further invading Sabah, Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said.

“This is meant to stop what is happening in Sabah from escalating,” said Lt. Fabric, adding the blockade began on February 12.

But the naval blockade would not be effective since relatives of the heirs of Sultan of Sulu have been residing in Sabah for a long time, sources told Gulf News.

At the same time, President Benigno Aquino created a group composed of representatives of the departments of justice and foreign affairs, and the office of the president to review the dormant claim of the Philippine government on Sabah, said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Former President Diosdado Macapagal formally claimed Sabah in 1962.

Succeeding Philippine presidents did not pursue it, following the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the assistance extended by Malaysia in helping the Philippine government handle its problem with Filipino-Muslim secessionist rebels in Mindanao. - source


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