THE Malaysian government on Sunday denied reports that fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding Chairman Nur Misuari and his followers have escaped to Sabah.
Malaysian news agency Borneo Post reported that Datuk Mohammad Mentek, director general of the Eastern Sabah Security Command declared 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.
He also urged the people of Sabah and concerned parties “not to worry or make any speculations which can create unnecessary unease.”
Reports earlier indicated that Misuari, who faces arrest for the bloody Zamboanga City siege in September, has already escaped to Sabah since this is the nearest territory from Sulu, where he was believed to have stayed during the standoff.
Misuari, along with his top commanders, has been the subject of manhunt operations by government security forces following the 20-day siege of Zamboanga City.
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 spokesperson Abraham Idjirani, however, criticized the Malaysian government for distancing itself from Misuari after using him years ago for its political interests.
“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.
When Misuari staged a rebellion in Jolo, Sulu in 2001, he fled to Sabah but was quickly arrested and deported back to the Philippines by Malaysian authorities, Idjirani recounted.
He also said that even if Misuari succeeded in escaping to Sabah, the sultanate’s Royal Security Forces (RSF) in Sabah would not give him refuge.
Idjirani added that the Philippine government must always remember that when Malaysia felt threatened by the Sabah claim, it 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 Arroyo removed him as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He was deported in January 2002 after being arrested by Malaysian authorities for illegal entry.
The MNLF chairman was subsequently placed under house arrest for rebellion charges and allowed to post bail in 2008 after six years in detention.