KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 ― The Kiram clan had not intended to reclaim Sabah but wanted more money than the current RM5,500 in annual stipend paid to the Sulu Sultanate, arguing that the sum was not “even enough to pay rental for an apartment” in Manila, the Philippines Star reported today.
Quoting Acting Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Government Mujiv Hataman, the newspaper said the message was relayed by “Princess” Jacel, the oldest daughter of self-styled Sulu “Sultan” Jamalul Kiram III, in one of the backroom negotiations between the clan and Manila for a peaceful solution to the Lahad Datu standoff.
“Hataman also emphasized that Princess Jacel told them they did not have plans to reclaim Sabah, and that they were only asking for a bigger payment because the current rate was not even enough to pay rental for an apartment,” the report said.
Malaysia paid the sultanate RM5,500 annually for Sabah, which it considered part of ancestral lands first ceded to the North Borneo Company in the 19th century.
The honorarium and ownership over the state was reported to be among the three issues raised by the sultanate with the Aquino administration before the Sabah standoff, which has left more than 30 dead, developed last month.
Hataman was reported as saying that that the issues, expressed in a letter to the President Benigno Aquino by the sultan’s brother Agbimuddin Kiram days before he took his oath in June 2010, included the clan’s frustration with its exclusion from the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the payment by Malaysia and its claim over Sabah.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported yesterday that Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who just returned from Malaysia yesterday, planned to pen an apology letter to Agbimuddin for failing to attend to the letter that the Sulu leader had written to the Aquino administration in 2010, seeking wisdom on his clan’s claim over Sabah.
The Kiram clan, however, said it was too late for apologies as many Filipinos have already died during the violent clashes with the Malaysian security forces in Sabah.
Agbimuddin has led the incursion by a group of over 200 armed man from the Sulu “royal army” into Lahad Datu in Sabah since February 9 in a bid to stake his brother’s claim over the northern Borneo territory.
Today, Hataman was quoted as saying that the rental issue was between the Malaysian government and the Kirams, but added that Manila had assisted the Kirams in establishing contact with the Malaysian authorities, naming the Malaysian Armed Forces General Mohammad Zulkifeli as the key figure in the talks.
Malaysian security forces and the Sulu gunmen are still locked in a nearly one-month standoff that has claimed the lives of over 20 individuals, including eight Malaysian police personnel.
A dawn aerial attack and subsequent ground sweep yesterday by Malaysian forces have yet to prove successful, however, and Agbimuddin and his band of rebels are still believed to be on the loose and on the move.
According to reports from their family members in Taguig City, Philippines, the group has no plans to lay down arms and are ready to fight to the last, believing that their struggle would be for the betterment of their clan’s future.-TMI