The Malaysian government on Sunday denied reports that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari and his men have escaped to Sabah.
Malaysian news agency Borneo Post quoted Datuk Mohammad Mentek, director-general of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) that he was “very certain” that Misuari was not in Sabah.
“I can confirm that neither Nur Misuari nor any of his men are in Sabah to seek refuge from the Philippine government,” Mohammad was quoted as saying.
There were unconfirmed reports that Misuari, who faces arrest for the bloody Zamboanga City siege in September, had fled to Sabah, the nearest Malaysian territory to Sulu, where he was believed to have stayed during the standoff.
Malaysia’s claim was supported by the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, which has a pending territorial claim over the disputed territory.
Sultanate secretary-general and spokesma Abraham Idjirani scored the Malaysian government for distancing itself from Misuari.
“This Malaysia’s act of betraying Misuari is the reason we agree with Malaysia’s declaration that he is not in Sabah. Misuari will not go back there,” Idjirani said.
He said if Misuari was really in Sabah, the sultanate’s Royal Security Forces (RSF) in Sabah will not give him refuge.
Idjirani added that the Philippine government must remember that when it felt threatened by the Sabah claim, Malaysia used Misuari as its proxy to proclaim the secession of Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan from the Republic of the Philippines.
Misuari escaped to Malaysia through Sabah after leading a bloody revolt in Jolo, Sulu, in 2001, when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo fired him as governor of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
He was deported in January 2002 after being arrested by Malaysian authorities for illegal entry.
The MNLF chairman was placed under house arrest on rebellion charges and was allowed bail in 2008 after six years in detention.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO