MANILA, Philippines – After 17 days, Malaysia on Friday, March 1, declared an end to the 17-day standoff instigated by followers of the Sultan of Sulu in Lahud Datu, Sabah. But it came with a price. And the Sultan’s followers claim it’s not over yet.
Throughout the day, various camps issued conflicting reports on the status of the conflict in Sabah. In the end, one thing was clear: shots were fired and lives were lost.
Rappler traces the sequence of events that transpired on Friday, March 1.
In an interview on DZRH, the group’s leader, Rajah Mudah Kiram, brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said: “Nagbabarilan na! Oo, nagbabarilan na!”
RAJA MUDA KIRAM: Nagbabarilan na! Oo, nagbabarilan na! #Sabah— DZRH News (@dzrhnews) March 1, 2013
The radio station, through its Twitter account, noted gunshots were heard during the interview.
But Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez could not confirm the report.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, although admitting he has not received verified reports, sounds upset in a DZMM interview, saying: “Eh matigas kasi ang ulo,” referring to the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. (Because they’re hard-headed.)
Spokesman Abraham Idjirani also claimed that one of the casualties is a woman, and that Malaysian security sent snipers to raid the area.
In a report in the Star of Malaysia, Malaysian Primer Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is quoted as saying that the Sultan’s followers must leave: “The group must realize that what they are doing is a serious offense and I hope they will accept the offer to leave peacefully as soon as possible.”
As conflicting reports persist, the administration’s senatorial bets proceeded to campaign in Pampanga and expressed their support for President Benigno Aquino III, who was then on his way to the province to guest at Team PNoy’s sortie.
1:00 pm – Malaysia denies firing the first shot
Through his Twitter account, Malaysia’s Home Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that Malaysian security forces “have not taken a single shot.”
Lahad Datu – I comfirm that our security forces have not taken a single shot but were shot at at 10am this morning !— Hishammuddin Hussein (@HishammuddinH2O) March 1, 2013
In an interview with Malaysia’s The Star, Hishammuddin declared the deadline for Kiram’s followers to leave Sabah had already expired. He also denied the Sulu Sultanate’s claim that up to 10 people died during the incident. He said there were “zero” casualties.
In an interview aired on PTV4, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte echoed Hishammuddin’s statement that there were zero casualties. She said no firefight occurred and that Malaysian security forces only fired warning shots.
“Una, ang gusto po nating klaruhin ay wala hong naging gunfight or naging firefight. Pangalawa, may nagpaputok po ng warning shot at na-detain po ‘yung dalawang taong ito ngunit ang imporrmasyon natin ay pinabalik na rin po sila (First, we want to stress that there was no firefight. Second, someone fired a warning shot and these two people were detained but they were immediately released),” Valte said.
On stage, Aquino apologizes to the crowd for constantly leaving the stage. He also cuts short his visit to Pampanga.
“Pasensiya na ho kayo kung kanina paakyat-baba ako ng entablado. Alam naman po ninyo na may nangyayari sa Sabah. Mukhang natapos na po yung pangyayari. (Forgive me. You know that there’s something going on in Sabah. It looks like the incident is over).” He added: “Hindi pa ho kumpleto ang detalye. Medyo nagmamadali ho tayo pabalik dahil inaasahan natin na pagdating natin sa opisina ay handa na po -‘yung kumpleto yung impormasyon. Alam na po nating yung nangyari nang may katiyakan at naasikaso lahat ng dapat maasikaso. (I don’t have the complete details. I expect that once I return to Manila I would be getting the complete details of what happened in Sabah and that we would have fixed things that needed fixing.)
3:00 pm – Malaysia, through a statement of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, reports that only 3 people died from the encounter
Although Sulu Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani insisted that 10 died from the incident, Malaysian Ambassador to Manila Dato Mohd Zamri Kassim, in a meeting with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, reported that only 3 died — the owner of the house where the Kirams stayed and two members of the Malaysian security forces.
Kassim added that one Malaysian cop was wounded while 10 followers of the Sultan of Sulu have surrendered to Malaysian authorities.
With this development, Malaysia declared the 17-day standoff in Sabah over.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippines issued a note verbale asking Malaysia for a full report on the assault.
4:30 pm – The sultan’s spokesman tells reporters that 100 Filipinos in Sabah had been arrested, signalling the start of a “crackdown.”
Sabah state police chief Hamza Taib confirmed that 12 “intruders,” who ventured out of their base died during the encounter, according to a report published by Malaysia’s The Star.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said two Malaysian police officers were also killed in the encounter while 3 others were wounded. Najib was quoted as saying that he was “very sad” over the incident but now there was “no grace period for the group to leave.”
8:00 pm – Malacañang concedes the standoff is not over given the presence of Malaysian security forces and Kiram’s followers in Sabah. The Aquino administration makes another appeal to the Kiram family to return to the Philippines. – compiled by Angela Casauay/Rappler.com