MANILA, Philippines (2nd Update) – Jamalul Kiram III, leader of the Sultanate of Sulu, died Sunday morning, October 20, of organ failure at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City, his spokesperson Abraham Idjirani said.
He was 75, his daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, said in a DZBB radio interview.
Idjirani said relatives will still discuss the funeral arrangements Sunday morning but Kiram made a wish before he passed away to be buried in the traditional capital of the Sultanate of Sulu, in Maimbung, Sulu.
In February, at least 100 armed followers of Kiram trooped to Lahad Datu, Sabah to revive the Sultanate’s claim to the Eastern Malaysian state. The move resulted in a standoff between Malaysian security troops and Kiram’s “Royal Security Force.” (READ: Sultan infuriates PH, Malaysia)
Kiram asked his siblings to continue the Sultanate’s fight to reclaim Sabah, Idjirani said, adding that Kiram spoke with his brother Raja Agbimuddin Kiram, who led the Sabah standoff, over the phone a day before he died.
But this did not mean renewed violence, Kiram’s wife, Fatima, told Agence France-Presse.
Fatima said the family was willing to enter into negotiations with Malaysia.
“The sultan died a poor but honourable man,” she said. “His last words to all his brothers and followers were, ‘It has already begun. Let us continue it for the good of our people. Do not abandon our people.”
Several followers of the Sultanate of Sulu are presently facing terrorism-related charges in Malaysia over the Sabah incident.
In 2007, Kiram ran for senator under then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Team Unity slate.
Prior to his senatorial, Kiram was a member of the Legislative and Executive Advisory Council (LEDAC) on the Sabah Claim. He was also Arroyo’s Presidential Adviser on Muslim Royalties’ Concern.
The Sultan of Sulu once ruled over islands in Mindanao, as well as Sabah. But the sultanate lost control of Sabah to European colonial powers in the 18th Century. (READ: Sabah as the last gold coin)
In 1963, Sabah voted to become part of the federation of Malaysia.
Kiram and his family, still receive annual compensation from Malaysia – the equivalent of about $1,700 – but he had previously said this amount was far too low.
Aside from Kiram, there are other descendants of the sultanate who also claim to be the true sultans of Sulu.
Fatima Kiram said her husband’s younger brother, Bantillan, would take over as sultan, stressing he had “the legal authority.” – Agence France-Presse