The Sabah Issue

Sultan of Sulu

Sultan of Sulu

When I first heard the news about the Sabah “invasion” by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, I did not take it seriously. The last time that I heard about the Sabah claim was in the 80’s when I was too young to involve myself into my country’s political and social issues.
I don’t remember any Philippine history books mentioning about the Kiram family though I know that for a time in our glorious past, sultans governed the southern part of the Philippines. Ordinary Filipinos are not even aware that the Sultanate of Sulu is still existing; so I guess nobody took Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s Sabah “invasion” quite seriously.

In the first place, if our republic truly acknowledges the Sultanate of Sulu and/or the sultan, then a Philippine holiday in the honor of the previous sultan/s should have been declared. Beyond the title and the written acknowledgement of the sultanate, a holiday is a sort of reminder to the people about a person or event’s legacy just like the EDSA Revolution Day. The absence of substantial information about the Sultanate of Sulu on history books and the absence of commemorative activities about the past sultans on a national level simply say that our republic does not truly acknowledge modern-day royalties.

Princess Jacel, daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said that their family tried to communicate with Malacanang about their lease issue in Sabah. They tried to reach out to Malacanang not once, not twice but thrice but their efforts proved to be futile. Is it a proof that from the start of this issue, the Philippine government has surrendered all its sovereignty rights to Malaysia?

To make the matters more confusing, another sultan from the Kiram family is claiming that he is the real sultan and not Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. In the middle of this chaos, I learned that eight more personalities have been claiming to be the real sultan. Internally, there is disagreement within the Kiram family in the issue of who is the real sultan.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram’s desperate move to re-claim Sabah is probably his final straw to earn the attention of both governments: Malaysia and the Philippines. From what he said, his original intention was to ask for a bigger rental lease because the PhP70,000/year is not even enough to pay for an apartment in Manila. The Malaysian government is saying that this is not a rental fee but a sort of a yearly stipend for the permanent turn-over of Sabah to Malaysia.
Who fired the first shot? The bloodshed started when somebody fired the first shot. Prior to this, President Noynoy asked the sultan to leave Sabah but Sultan Jamalul Kiram III insisted that his royal army would stay in Sabah.

Many are saying that Malaysia is just reaping what it sowed when it supported the MNLF in Mindanao for 20 long years. True enough, according to Nur Misuari, founder of MNLF, some of his men are supporting Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s army BUT without his knowledge and consent.
The people of Sabah are the most terrorized by this turn of events. The Filipinos in Sabah who have closer affiliation with the Sabahans than their fellow Filipinos from Luzon are also pushed in a lose-lose situation. In Sabah, they will face discrimination or wrath from the local people. Back home, they have the Abu Sayaff and MNLF to deal with.

To close this sovereignty and proprietory rights issue, then perhaps both Malaysia and the Philippines could bring this case to the International Court of Justice. Somebody has to stand in between the two countries and good thing, the UN interceded to end the violence. The Kiram family must be united and decide on who is the rightful sultan of Sulu because it’s funny to be watching one branch of the family fighting for their cause while another branch is claiming that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is not the real sultan.