Mar 3, 2013

Malaysian PM orders probe of 'opposition leader' role in Sabah standoff

MANILA, Philippines - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has ordered an investigation into a claim that a Malaysian opposition leader "had a hand" in the standoff in Sabah involving members of the Royal Sulu army, Malaysian media reported. And in Manila, ex-national security adviser Norberto Gonzales denied encouraging the sultanate's Sabah mission and welcomed an inquiry.

Malaysia's national news agency Bernama said Najib ordered intelligence agencies to investigate the allegation, but said there should be strong evidence to link politicians to the standoff.

Bernama said the Prime Minister was "puzzled" as to the timing of the Sulu sultan's followers’ landing on Lahad Datu in Sabah, especially when Malaysia was to hold general elections.

"All avenues must be investigated," Najib was quoted as saying. "(President Benigno) Aquino III also wants to know the truth. The whole episode is a major embarrassment for the Philippine government."

He added, "They [Philippine government] do not wish to see their citizens involved in aggression, violence, use of weapons and killing our people."

Najib was reacting to Philippine media reports quoting a Philippine military officer as saying the Sulu fighters were invited by a Malaysian opposition politician.

Bernama quoted Najib as saying the Filipinos had a "grand design" to "undermine the peace and stability that Sabah enjoyed."

Manila connection – not me, says ex-NSA Gonzales

In Manila, the Aquino government earlier indicated it was checking information that certain parties egged the sultanate’s forces to cross over to Sabah, but one of the subjects of speculation flatly denied this, and welcomed an investigation.

Paying a “personal visit” to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III at his home near the Blue Mosque in Taguig City, former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales denied that he was behind the standoff in Sabah.

Emerging from a closed-door meeting with Kiram III and his family, Gonzales said he was willing to be investigated to prove he did not push the sultan to instruct his men to go to Lahad Datu.

"Sure. Anytime," he told reporters.

Gonzales said he was a long-time friend of the sultan. The two have connections with former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Gonzales served as her security adviser while the sultan ran in her administration’s senatorial slate, but lost, in 2007.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the sultan's family, also affirmed Gonzales' statement saying sultan and Gonzales' friendship went way back.

On Saturday, action star Robin Padilla, a Muslim convert who said the sultan had given him moral comfort when he was in prison many years ago, also visited the sultan in Taguig.

Najib sees no need for joint task force

The Prime Minister also saw no need to form a joint Malaysian-Philippine task force to handle the crisis at this time, but said there can be information exchange and coordination.

Meanwhile, Bernama also reported that an additional two battalions of the Malaysian army were dispatched to Sabah. - source


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