ZAMBOANGA CITY: Members of the so-called Royal Security Force of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo on Friday warned Manila that violence may erupt in southern Philippines if President Benigno Aquino 3rd fails to support their long-standing historical claim to the island of Sabah, now a state forming part of Malaysia.
In a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner a day after the historic signing by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, a “General” Panglima, who identified himself as a leader of the security force, accused the Aquino administration of ignoring the claim by the sultanate to Sabah, whose historical name was Borneo.
“Nananawagan kami sa pamahalaan na sana po gawin nila o hanapan na lang ng paraan ang isyu na ito at huwag naman nila ito isantabi. One year na kami sa giyera at naghihintay mula nang sumiklab ang gulo sa Sabah noong February 2013 at 2014 na ngayon ay wala pa ring action ang pamahalaan ukol dito sa Sabah claim [We are calling on the government to not set aside this issue. We have been at war for one year and have been waiting for government action on our claim since violence erupted in Sabah in February 2013 and in 2014],” Panglima said.
He did not say how many men the Royal Security Force commands but are seen to number in the hundreds based on a deployment of fighters in early 2013.
In February last year, the ailing Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, of the Sultanate of Sulu, sent about 200 followers headed by his brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram to Sabah to assert their claim to and supposed historical rights over the state.
Sultan Jamalul’s group rejected Malaysian demand for them to surrender peacefully and fighting erupted in Lahad Datu town where more than 60 of the sultan’s men were killed and over 300 Filipinos arrested on suspicion that they were aiding the group of Raja Muda Agbimuddin.
Malaysia also put Sultan Jamalul and his brother on its wanted list and branded them as terrorists for intruding into Sabah and killing and decapitating 10 policemen and soldiers in separate clashes on the island.
Raja Muda Agbimuddin managed to escape the Malaysian assault in Sabah, while Sultan Jamalul died in October last year from a lingering illness at age 75.
Panglima in his statement said Manila failed or refused to help members of the sultanate and Filipinos who were said to be illegally detained in Sabah in connection with the fighting last year.
“The government ignored our claim. It still did not listen to us even after Sultan Jamalul died. The government wants to talk only about violence, which we are capable of creating throughout Mindanao, despite the government belittling our group, and so we call on the government to help us in our claim. Let us help each other and unite for all Filipinos, Christian and Muslim are brothers and are of one blood,” he added.
The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo continues to lay claim to Sabah. It obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on Borneo island. The British leased Sabah and transferred control over the territory to Malaysia after the end of World War II.
But the sultanate said it had merely leased North Borneo in 1878 to the British North Borneo Company for an annual payment of 5,000 Malayan dollars then, which was increased to 5,300 Malayan dollars in 1903.
The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north. North Borneo was annexed by Malaysia in 1963 after a referendum organized by the Cobbold Commission in 1962 saw the people of Sabah voting overwhelmingly to join Malaysia.
Malaysia continued paying the sultanate 5,300 ringgits a year on the basis of the Sulu royals’ ceding the Borneo state.
It brokered peace negotiations between the government and the MILF that led to the signing of the peace agreement on Thursday.