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Friday, June 14, 2024

‘Sabah negotiations since 2013 failed’

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DAVAO CITY—A negotiation organized by Moro sultans on the Sabah issue has failed since the Lahad Datu standoff in Sabah in early 2013, according to Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu.

Sultan Mangudadatu, executive president of the Confederation of Mindanao Sultanates, said he carried the banner of the Dunya Malay International (Malay World International) as its vice chairman, to pursue a peaceful settlement of the historical conflict in February 2013.

He said the late Sulu Sultan Ismael Kiram gave him the authority to represent what was supposed to be the Sulu Sultanate’s negotiation with top Malaysian officials.

But the CMS head said the negotiation did not push through because Malaysian authorities had instead demanded for a negotiation with the Philippine government on the terms of dropping its territorial claim over Sabah.

On Sunday, the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, along with the Sultans of Lanao, Davao Region as well as the Buayan Sultanates enthroned Sultan Mangudadatu as Federal Head of Mindanao Sultanates.

Mangudadatu said he would go around working for peace among traditional Malay Muslim leaders in the face of threats from the forces of extremism and terrorism.

He said the traditional Moro leadership was against terrorism and extremism being a total deviation from the teachings of Islam.

Sultan Kudarat Congressman Suharto Mangudadatu said Moro Muslims should establish a venue of continuing peace dialogue to ask their kin among members of the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf, the Maute Group, and the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters to shun violent extremism and terrorism. 

The Philippines has laid territorial claim over Sabah, based on historical rights since 1960, when Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram II then gave such authority to the government under President Diosdado Macapagal.

On the other hand, the Sultanate of Sulu has had proprietary rights over Sabah which has been compensated by the Malaysian government since its founding in 1963. 

Asian Muslim scholar Datu Michael Mastura, a descendant of the Maguindanao sultanate, said then President Corazon Aquino had pushed for the Bill dropping the Philippines’ territorial claim over Sabah.

Mastura, a lawyer and historian, authored the proposed law in the House of Representatives in 1988. But the Bill has since been arc hived in the first post-martial law Congress.

The North Borneo territory was awarded by the Sultan Brunei to the Sultan of Sulu, after both sultanates defeated a monarch mutiny led by the brother of the former in 1662. 

Despite a legal conflict later emerging as to whether the Sulu Sultanate’s property was “leased” or “ceded” to the British Borneo Company, the Federal Supreme Court of Sabah (under the Malay Federation of the British Commonwealth) ruled for the awarding of proprietary rights to the Sulu Sultan's heirs.

The ruling was overtaken by the formation of Malaysia as a federal country in 1963, but still its government has honored the court decision by compensating the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate with an annual rental of some 35,000 Malaysian Ringgit.

Towards the late 1960s, the Sabah Claim issue had polarized the country’s political leadership as President Ferdinand Marcos, the highest figure in the Nacionalista Party, revived the Sabah Claim in his own terms and military strategies, which included a botched plan to launch a commando-type attack to “invade Sabah” in 1968.

According to Marcos then, there could not be a real case of “perpetual lease,” and that under international law, the maximum lease period was for 100 years—which would have been reached in 1978, since the signing of the lease agreement in 1878. A security expert had said that Marcos saw a “Sabah invasion” as a key to elevating the case to the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ).

But then Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. exposed in the Senate what has since been known as the Jabidah Massacre in Corregidor Island on March 18, 1968.

Young Muslim commando trainees were reportedly killed by firing squad by their mentors in batches of two or three after a failed mutiny, ostensibly over shortage of provision, or the corruption of funds intended for it.

Aquino’s expose then in the Senate was largely based on the oral testimony of lone survivor, the late Jibin Arula, one of the trainees and the lone survivor of the firing-squads, according to his narration.

Under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004, the Philippine government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) filed a “Leave-of-Court” Petition to intervene the Sabah issue into a case between Malaysia and Indonesia in their dispute over the Sipadan Island. The country lost that petition in the initial court battle at ICJ.

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