ZAMBOANGA CITY: Malaysia has vowed to defend the sovereignty of Sabah following remarks made by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte that the oil-rich state – home to about half a million Filipinos – belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu.
The Malaysia Digest reported that Duterte was quoted by Philippine media that he will never abandon the Sulu Sultanate’s quest to stake its claim on Sabah.
“We are allowing proprietary heirs to talk (with Malaysia). Since it is part of our claim, it will be there as our land,” Duterte was quoted as saying. “What has been the policy will always be the policy of the government especially those for the interest of the country. We have to stake our claim.”
But Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak vowed to defend every inch of Sabah’s sovereignty.
Malaysian media quoted Najib as saying that no one can stake a claim on Sabah that had gained its independence through Malaysia with the agreement of the United Nations in 1963.
The findings of the Cobbold Commission reflected the wishes of the people and this was accepted by the international community, he said.
“As such, no group can make any claim on Sabah,” Najib said in a report by The Star.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman earlier said that the state will remain part of Malaysia and had never recognized any claim by the Philippines on the issue. The report quoted Najib as saying that Malaysia is committed towards defending Sabah from any threat and urged its citizens to be the eyes and ears of the security forces.
The Philippines is claiming that Sabah or North Borneo originally belonged to the Sultan of Brunei, who gave it to Sultan of Sulu Salah ud-Din Karamat Bakhtiar in 1658 as a reward for helping quell a rebellion.
In 1878, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Alam Kiram leased North Borneo to the Hong Kong-based British North Borneo Company of Baron Gustavos von Overbeck and Alfred Dent for “5,000 Malaysian dollars” a year.
Even after North Borneo became part of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur still pays an annual rent of at least 5,000 ringgit to the heirs of the recognized Sultan of Sulu Ismail Kiram.