Sultan wants talks with Aquino

(UPDATED) 'We have not committed a crime," says Sultan Jamalul Kiram III

STANDOFF. Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's spokesman faces the media at the Sultan's residence in Taguig, Metro Manila. Photo by Carlos Santamaria

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu wants to sit down with the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia before he tells his “royal army” to leave Sabah, Jamalul Kiram III’s spokesman said on Tuesday, February 26.

“What we need now is a mutual understanding,” Abraham Idjirani explained during a press conference at the sultan’s residence in Taguig.

Asked to reply to President Benigno Aquino III’s appeal to end the standoff in Sabah, Idjirani welcomed the statement and said it is development on the right track.”

Kiram’s spokesman however insisted that the group of Filipinos defying Malaysian security forces in North Borneo will not leave the area or board the Navy ship dispatched on Sunday by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) until the sultan’s concerns are addressed by the government.

Idjirani also stressed that they have not adopted a “hardline stand” on the historical claim over Sabah and added that Kiram will allow himself to be arrested if the Department of Justice decides to file a case against him following the actions of his followers.

“That’s the law,” the sultan’s spokesman told reporters.

‘We have not commited a crime’ – Kiram

The 74-year-old sultan himself appeared later and said the standoff in Sabah will continue until his demands are met.

“As far as we are concerned we have not committed (a) crime,” Kiram said, adding his followers cornered in a small fishing village would not initiate any violence with the Malaysian security forces, but “we are prepared to defend our lives and aspirations.”

Malaysia on Tuesday authorized its security forces to disarm the Filipinos occupying the village of Tanduao in Lahud Datu since February 9.

“It is only a question of right timing for us to act,” said Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib, according to the online site of local newspaper The Star.

Kiram however stressed that his supporters would only lay down their arms if the Philippines and Malaysia agreed to negotiate terms for joint development of Sabah.

Pressed on details of the proposed development, Idjirani explained the sultanate should receive as royalties 50% of the income from Sabah’s economic growth instead of the current annual subsidy paid by Malaysia.

Kiram also noted his 235 followers, according to his own count, wanted to remain in Sabah even if a financial deal was struck.

“(They want to) peacefully settle in Sabah, which is our homeland,” he said. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/

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