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COTABATO, Philippines - With the ongoing standoff in Sabah, self-proclaimed Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III will ask the US government for help in their quest to reclaim the territory from Malaysia, his spokesman said on Monday, February 25.
The 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement assured the sultan American protection “should a problem arise in Sabah between the Sultan of Sulu and other foreign countries,” Abraham Idjirani told Rappler.
“That’s the US historical obligation to us. I talked to our men in Sabah. They need food and medicine,” Idjirani said.
The spokesman added that the sultan has "evidence that Sabah belongs to us and that Malaysian government are paying rental fees to the Sultan of Sulu.”
Proof of this, Idjirani explained, is that since 1870 the British Empire had been paying them the equivalent of 5,300 ringgit in Mexican gold coins.
From 1946 to 1963 the Malaysian ringgit was pegged to the British pound sterling.
“And from 1963 to present, the currency of rental fee [and] back to [the] Malaysian ringgit. We have receipts of their payment,” stressed Idjirani.
Militants to stay in Sabah
Regarding the situation of the 180 Filipinos defying Malaysian security forces in Sabah, Idjirani said that so far the sultan has not changed his orders for his "Royal Army" to stay in Lahud Datu.
Obeying those orders, the Filipinos occupying the village of Tanduao will not return home even if the government on Sunday dispatched a humanitarian ship to repatriate women and civilians.
“The message [is] clear: to live there in peace and to point their weapons on the ground,” Idjirani said.
Jesus Dureza, former Philippine representative to the East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), asked Malaysia to end its blockade of the area and cancel its deadline for Kiram's men to leave Lahud Datu.
“Malaysia should refrain from pushing the button. My recommendation is to lift its announced 'deadline to vacate' and the food blockade imposed to scuttle the Sultanate's resolve. Extending it to a few more days won’t work. It will only lead to the brink,” Dureza said.
The former official of BIMP-EAGA -- which also includes Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia -- added that "now that the Philippine government is grappling with the incident and has indicated that it will help handle the situation, it may be best for Malaysia to just leave the matter, for the meantime, to the Philippine side to resolve the so-called standoff."
"This will need cooling off time so [a] deadline won’t help,” he said.
Let PH solve the problem
Dureza also suggested that Filipino backchannel negotiators must work round the clock to convince Malaysia to leave the matter for the Philippines to resolve.
“Malaysia must also be given [the] 'graceful exit' of lifting its declared 'deadline' by making it appear that it is merely acceding to a 'friendly neighbor’s' request. After all, this way Malaysia will pass on the onus of the problem to the Philippine side. And Filipinos, I know, will have a way of quietly resolving it in time. For the moment, this is a Filipino problem that only Filipinos can resolve,” he said.
Idjirani announced that the sultan had likewise requested assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross through Philippine Red Cross chairman and opposition senatorial candidate Richard Gordon for the international relief organization to bring food and medicine for their people in Lahad Datu.
The heirs of the sultan of Sulu led by Kiram's brother Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin and between 180 and 400 followers sailed to Sabah on February 12 to pursue their claim on the resource-rich state, saying they felt left out of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
But the Philippine government refuses to discuss the Sabah claim for now and also ruled out sending UN peacekeepers to the area.
Sulu and its sultan once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the current standoff between a group of Filipinos and Malaysian security forces.
The heirs of the sultan have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah, a claim that has not been actively pursued by the Philippines since 1964. - with reports from Jef Maitem & Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com