Standoff leader won't back down
MANILA, Philippines - The leader of the Filipino standoff in Sabah admits they are running short of supplies but insisted they will not leave until the Philippines and Malaysia agree to discuss the Sulu Sultanate's historical claim over the area.
Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, the brother of Sultan Sultan Jamalul Kiram III also told a Malaysian newspaper that he has enough manpower and weapons to defend themselves from an attack.
"We came here in peace and we don't want bloodshed but if the situation forces us, we will do so," he said in an interview published by the New Staits Times on Thursday, February 28.
The Philippines on Wednesday asked to further extend the deadline for the militants to leave Lahud Datu so Kiram has more time to study the message delivered to him the day before by President Benigno Aquino III.
Malaysia has yet to respond to that request.
The government is also worried that the ongoing standoff will put at risk about 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Malaysia.
Raja Muda explained that despite the lack of food and electricity, his men are still in high spirits and they are turning into a "fortress" the small fishing village of Tanduao in Lahud Datu.
Malaysian police believe the militants are now surviving on food donated by fellow Filipino immigrants who live close to the site, blocked off by local security forces since February 9.
The brother of Sultan Jamulal Kiram III also denies that some members of his group wanted to leave and reiterated why they are there.
"What we want is to claim Sabah, our ancestral land. The people of Sabah were originally Bajau, Iranun, Sulug and Ida'an while the Kadazandusun were refugees from Vietnam," he said.
Aquino warned the sultan that he would face the "full force of the law" unless he withdrew his gunmen from Malaysia.
Kiram however remained defiant and demanded talks with the President and a share in the future profits of Sabah's economic growth to tell his followers to stand down and return to the Philippines. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com