Mar 9, 2013

Sabah crisis Timeline

Sabah on Borneo island has been the subject of a tug-of-war between descendants of a Sulu sultan and Malaysia. The crisis took a violent turn this month after Malaysian troops attacked members of the Sultanate of Sulu who arrived in Sabah on Feb. 14 to stake their claim on the island.

Here is a timeline of the events.

Feb 14, 2013 (Thursday) – Suspected Filipino gunmen numbering between 80 to 100 were cornered in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island trigerring the start of the standoff.

February 15, 2013 (Friday) – The unidentified group of gunmen introduces itself as the Royal Sulu Army reviving the longstanding claim of Sabah by the Sultanate of Sulu.

February 16, 2013 (Saturday) – Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says the renewed claim on Sabah by the Royal Sulu Army is not sanctioned by the Philippine government.

“We made it very clear to the Malaysian authorities, especially to chief of defense forces, particularly to chief of defense force Gen. Zulkipli (Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin) [that] this is not sanctioned and without the blessing of the government,” Gazmin said in an interview in Baguio City.

February 17, 2013 (Sunday) - Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said his followers—some 400 people with at least 20 of them armed—will not leave despite a demand from the Malaysian government that they go back to the Philippines.

"Why should we leave our own home? In fact they (the Malaysians) are paying rent (to us)," Kiram told reporters in Manila.

February 21, 2013 (Thursday) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) renews its appeal to Kiram's followers to withdraw peacefully from Sabah.

President Benigno Aquino III also warned the armed group that their actions may lead to conflict.

“Going there with arms is not the way to resolve this," Aquino said in his first public comments on the issue. When you brandish arms, naturally the other side has only one way to respond to such a challenge,” Aquino said.

February 22, 2013 (Friday) – Malaysia extends the original deadline for the Kiram followers to leave by 48 hours to Sunday.

But Kiram remains firm that his Royal Army will stay in Sabah.

“Puno na ako ng ultimatum... that ultimatum kako na wala naman,” Kiram said in the television report.

February 23, 2013 (Saturday) – Malaysia adopts a “wait-and-see” approach against the Royal Sulu Army which holed up in Sabah.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said their government is aiming for a peaceful solution, adding that it was important to resolve the issue without bloodshed.

February 24, 2013 (Sunday) – As the deadline for the armed group's surrender nears, a Philippine ship sails to Sabah on a “humanitarian mission” and is expected to arrive the following day.

“We are deeply concerned about the presence of five women and other civilians in the group, and we urge them to board the ship without delay and return home,” DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

Meanwhile, as the deadline for the armed group's surrender nears, there were reports that they are running low on food and supplies.

February 25, 2013: (Monday) – The Philippine ship on a humanitarian mission anchored off Sabah waters.

However, the spokesperson of the sultanate said that the Royal Sulu Army will not board the ship.

“Hindi sila aalis, with due apologies to the Malaysian government. Puwede lang ma-stop itong issue kung sila ay patay na dahil ang pinaglalaban dito ay hindi kapakanan ng pamilya lamang pero kapakanan ng sambayanang Pilipino,” Abraham Iridjani said.

February 26, 2013 (Tuesday) – Aquino appeals to Kiram to order his followers to go home.

“And so this is my appeal to you: These are your people, your people. It behooves you to recall them. It must be clear to you that this small group of people will not succeed in addressing your grievances, and that there is no way that force can achieve your aims,” Aquino said in a statement during the briefing.

On the other hand, Malaysian security troops got the go signal to disarm the Royal Sulu Army.

“It is only a question of right timing for us to act,” Sabah police chief Commander Datuk Hamza Taib was quoted in the report as saying.

February 27, 2013 (Wednesday) – Tensions rise as the deadline for Kiram's followers to surrender has passed while food is running low. Still, Kiram's followers remain defiant in staying in Sabah.

February 28, 2013 (Thursday) – Amid tensions between Kiram's followers and the Malaysian side, Malaysian police say they won't arrest the armed group yet.

March 1, 2013 (Friday) – Violence erupted on the 17th day of the Sabah standoff with a shootout after Malaysian security forces attempted to tighten a cordon around the armed group.

Twelve Filipinos and two Malaysian police officers were reportedly killed during the exchange of gunfire.

Meanwhile, 10 followers of Kiram reportedly surrendered while others went to the sea to escape.

March 2, 2013 (Saturday) – More bloodshed occurs with 6 Filipinos and 6 Malaysian police officers being killed in an ambush set by the Royal Sulu Army.

In the afternoon, Aquino appealed once again to the Royal Sulu Army to “surrender without condition.”

“Because of the path you have taken, what we have been trying to avoid has come to pass,” Aquino said.

March 3, 2013 (Sunday) – Malaysian cops say that three areas where firefights occurred were now under Malaysian control while a man linked to the earlier ambush was beaten to death after he tried to hostage civilians.

Mopping operations of some 300 homes in the village ended at 6:30 in the evening.

On the other hand, a new war was waged between Filipinos and Malaysians in cyberspace who defaced each other's websites.

March 4, 2013 (Monday) – Malaysia beefs up its forces in Sabah sending in an additional two army battalions as the death toll rises to 26.

Meanwhile, del Rosario met up with Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur to discuss a possible solution with “maximum tolerance” for the Filipino armed group in the Sabah crisis.

There were also 289 Filipinos who arrived in Mindanao after being deported from Malaysia. Most of them were women and children. A radio dzBB report quoted local social welfare officers, however, as saying the deportation was not related to the deadly clashes.

March 5, 2013 (Tuesday) – Malaysia's patience reaches its limit as it sent out jets to bomb the hideout of Kiram's followers in Lahad Datu, Sabah. Hundreds of troops moved in following the air assault.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's de facto law minister Nazri Aziz said that the Sulu Royal Army will be charged with murder, adding that the Geneva Convention will only come into play if Malaysia considered the act as war.

Nazri called the arrival of the armed Filipinos in Sabah in February as “intrusion into our sovereignty not a war.”

There were also 50 Filipinos who arrived in Tawi-Tawi after fleeing the conflict between the groups.

March 6, 2013 (Wednesday) – Malaysian troops claim they have killed another 13 suspected Philippine militants bringing the total number of dead to 40.

On the other hand, one of the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front said that “thousands” of their forces are heading to Sabah to provide support to the Sulu Royal Army.

March 7, 2013 (Thursday) – Sultan Kiram's camp declares a unilateral ceasefire at 12:30 pm while maintaining a defensive position amid the continuing firefight between the Sulu Royal Army and the Malaysian security forces in Sabah.

Kiram's camp said that this was in response to a request from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stop the bloodshed.

Malaysia rejects the ceasefire offer of the Kiram camp. – KG/RSJ, GMA News


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