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Thursday, February 28, 2013

What is Sabah worth?

By Perry Diaz

To the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, Sabah is only worth 5,300 ringgits (the equivalent of US$1,500), the annual rent the Sultanate has been receiving from the Federation of Malaysia since 1963 when the federation was created from a group of former British colonies including Sabah.  But with Sabah’s large quantity of natural resources including oil and gas, the revenue generated is out of proportion to the rent paid to the Sultanate of Sulu. It’s cheap… obscenely cheap!

But the Federation of Malaysia has enormously benefited from Sabah.  Figures from FACTS Global Energy show that Sabah has about 1.5 billion barrels of oil and about 11 trillion cubic feet of gas in its reserves, which represent about 25% and 12% of Malaysia’s oil and gas reserves, respectively.
Socio-economic growth
In November 2011, Reuters reported the discovery of oil offshore of Sabah of which initial estimates put the well’s oil reserves at 227 million barrels.  It didn’t take the giant Petronas long to infuse billions in investments.  Petronas began five major projects: Sabah-Sarawak Gas Pipeline (SSGP), Sabah Oil & Gas Terminal (SOGT), Kimanis Power Plant (KPP), Kimanis Petroleum Training Centre (KTC), and Kinabalu NAG (non-associated gas) upstream development.  The SOGT has a daily capacity to handle up to 300,000 barrels of crude oil and one billion cubic feet of gas.

But while Sabah is the sixth biggest contributor to Malaysia’s national economy — contributing more than 25% of the total oil and gas produced in the country – it is the poorest state with the highest unemployment rate in the country.  Is it probably because the money generated from tapping its natural resources is being funneled out of the state into the coffers of the national government and pockets of out-of-state companies; thus, leaving the state – and its people — mired in poverty?
Sabah, with an area of 76,115 square kilometers, is the second largest of the 13 states in the Malaysian federation.  With a population of more than 3.2 million — the majority of them are Tausugs from Sulu — it has a large number of overseas Filipino workers.  Of the 600,000 Filipinos working in Malaysia, most of them are in Sabah.  Filipinos come and go and nobody would pay any attention… until now.

It did not then come as a surprise to Malaysian authorities in Sabah when about 250 Filipinos slipped into the town of Lahad Datu.  But when they found out who they were and why they came, all hell broke loose!
The group of Filipinos turned out to be members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu.  Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, leads the group. And they want their ancestral land back.

The question is: Does the Sultan of Sulu have any legal claim to ownership of Sabah?

Historical milestones
Records show that Sabah was originally part of the Sultanate of Brunei.  In 1658 (1704 from other sources), the Sultan of Brunei ceded Sabah to his cousin, the Sultan of Sulu, to compensate him for helping the Sultan of Brunei quell a rebellion in Brunei.  From that time on, that territory became part of the Sultan of Sulu’s domain, which came to be known as the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.
In 1878, Sultan Jamalul Ahlam of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo leased North Borneo — which became known as “Sabah” — to Gustavus Von Overbeck, an Austrian, and Alfred Dent, his British partner.  The written agreement used “padjak,” the Tausug word for “lease.” However, the lessee interpreted it to mean, “grant” or “cede.”  The annual “lease” amount was 5,000 Mexican gold pieces (called Mexican dollars). The agreement also specified that the rights to Sabah couldn’t be transferred to any other person or country without the Sultan of Sulu’s express consent.

In 1881, Dent formed the British North Borneo Company (BNBC), which was chartered by the British government.  Subsequently, BNBC assigned the lease contract to the United Kingdom.  That was the beginning of the colonization of Sabah.
In 1885, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain signed the Madrid Protocol, which recognized the sovereignty of Spain over the Sulu archipelago in exchange for Spain relinquishing all her claims to Sabah in favor of the United Kingdom.  However, the Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah was not a party to the tripartite agreement.
In 1888, Sabah became a protectorate of the United Kingdom.  This is one step closer to colonization.
In 1936, BNBC stopped paying the rent when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, the 32nd sultan of Sulu, died.  The reason for the suspension of rent was because of President Manuel L. Quezon’s refusal to recognize Kiram II’s heir, Sultan Punjungan Kiram.
In 1946, British North Borneo Co. transferred all its rights over Sabah to the United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom’s colonization of Sabah was a fait accompli, although BNBC continued to exploit her natural resources… and pocketed the profit.
In 1950, Kiram’s heirs filed a case in the Sessions Court of North Borneo, which ordered BNBC to resume paying rent.  BNBC complied with the court’s order.
In 1962, the Sultan of Sulu ceded sovereignty of Sabah to the Philippines, which empowered the Philippine government to pursue to claim Sabah.
In 1963, when the United Kingdom granted independence to Malaya and created the Federation of Malaysia, Sabah was made part of that federation.  To protest the inclusion of Sabah in the Federation of Malaysia, the Philippines severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia.   Malaysia took over the responsibility of paying the annual rent to the Sultanate of Sulu through the Malaysian Embassy in Manila.  It’s interesting to note that Malaysia insists that the amount is an annual “cession” payment while the Kiram heirs consider it as “rent.”
In 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed, which included the Philippines and the Federation of Malaysia among its charter members.  It was at this point that the Philippines ceased to actively pursue her sovereignty claim over Sabah.
In February 2013, the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu entered Sabah to reclaim their ancestral land.
The $64,000 question is: Would the Federation of Malaysia willingly return Sabah to the Philippines or the Sultanate of Sulu?  Or would the standoff lead to bloodshed?
With multi-billion economic developments going on right now, it’s doubtful if Malaysia would pack up and voluntarily leave Sabah.  There is just too much money, infrastructure, and resources already invested in Sabah.
However, like anything else, nothing is impossible if all parties would compromise to make everybody happy.  Could it be possible that the Philippines, Malaysia, and the Sultanate of Sulu form an economic consortium divvying up the profits from the revenue generated by the companies doing business in Sabah?  With the Philippines retaining sovereignty, Malaysia driving the economic growth, and the Sultanate of Sulu receiving royalty or franchise fee, they might all turn out to be winners – a trifecta!
What is Sabah worth then? To the Philippines, Sabah is all about sovereignty. To Malaysia, Sabah is all about money.  But to the Sultanate of Sulu, Sabah is worth dying for.

The Sabah Question

The Sabah Question
The timing of the media focus on Kiram’s actions in Sabah comes at a rather opportune time. After all, with or without the Sultan’s men calling attention to themselves, Sabah was already an issue, albeit, a dormant one.
The question therefore is why is the Philippine media focusing on it only now? The records of the historical validity of the Sabah claim is there for everyone to review.
As far as I can recall, the following can be ascertained:
1. Sabah is a property of the Sultan of Sulu
2. In 1761, Alexander Dalrymple, an officer of the British East India Company, concluded an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu to allow him to set up a trading post in the region, although it proved to be a failure.
3. UK rented the property from the Sultan of Sulu
4. In 1885, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany signed the Madrid Protocol of 1885, which recognised the sovereignty of Spain in the Sulu Archipelago in return for the relinquishment of all Spanish claims over North Borneo.
5. In 1888 North Borneo became a protectorate of the United Kingdom.
6. From 1942 to 1945, Japanese forces occupied North Borneo, along with most of the island.
7. The war ended on 10 September 1945. After the surrender, North Borneo was administered by the British Military Administration and in 1946 it became a British Crown Colony
8. On 31 August 1963 North Borneo attained self-government.
9. On 16 September 1963 North Borneo, as Sabah, was united with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore, to form the independent Federation of Malaysia.
10. In 1963, a tripartite meeting was held in Manila between Indonesian president Soekarno, Philippines president Diosdado Macapagal and Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The meeting agreed to petition the UN to send another commission of enquiry and the Philippines and Indonesia agreed to drop their objection to the formation of Malaysia if the new commission found popular opinion in the territories in favour. The UN Mission to Borneo was thus established, comprising members of the UN Secretariat from Argentina, Brazil, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Ghana, Pakistan, Japan and Jordan. The Mission’s report, authored by UN Secretary-General U Thant found ‘a sizeable majority of the people’ in favour of joining Malaysia.

The point of law is quite simple, but ultimately basic to the international rule of law. It is this: historic title, no matter how persuasively claimed on the basis of old legal instruments and exercises of authority, cannot – except in the most extraordinary circumstances – prevail in law over the rights of non-self-governing people to claim independence and establish their sovereignty through the exercise of bona fide self-determination.
13. The independence of North Borneo was brought about as the result of the expressed wish of the majority of the people of the territory in a 1963 election. The Secretary-General of the United Nations was entrusted under the Manila Accord of 31 July 1963 with the task of ascertaining the wishes of the people of North Borneo, and reported that the majority of the peoples of North Borneo had given serious and thoughtful consideration to their future and:
“[had] concluded that they wish to bring their dependent status to an end and to realize their independence through freely chosen association with other peoples in their region with whom they feel ties of ethnic association, heritage, language, religion, culture, economic relationship, and ideals and objectives.” (Quoted by the Representative of Malaysia to the General Assembly, 1219th meeting, 27 September 1963, Official Records of the General Assembly, 18th Session, UN Doc. No. A/PV.1219.)
14. In 1963, Britain filed its last report to the United Nations on North Borneo as an Article 73 (e) Non-Self-Governing Territory (Note by the Secretary-General, Political and Constitutional Information on Asian Territories under United Kingdom Administration, UN Doc. No. A/5402/Add.4 (4 April 1963)). Thereafter, the United Nations removed North Borneo from the list of colonial territories under its decolonization jurisdiction (see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1964, pp. 411-435, which omits North Borneo from the Committee’s list of territories), thereby accepting that the process of decolonization had been completed by a valid exercise of self-determination.
15. Accordingly, in light of the clear exercise by the people of North Borneo of their right to self-determination, it cannot matter whether this Court, in any interpretation it might give to any historic instrument or efficacy, sustains or not the Philippines claim to historic title. Modern international law does not recognize the survival of a right of sovereignty based solely on historic title; not, in any event, after an exercise of self-determination conducted in accordance with the requisites of international law, the bona fides of which has received international recognition by the political organs of the United Nations. Against this, historic claims and feudal pre-colonial titles are mere relics of another international legal era, one that ended with the setting of the sun on the age of colonial imperium.
16. The lands and people claimed by the Philippines formerly constituted most of an integral British dependency. In accordance with the law pertaining to decolonization, its population exercised their right of self-determination. What remains is no mere boundary dispute. It is an attempt to keep alive a right to reverse the free and fair decision taken almost 40 years ago by the people of North Borneo in the exercise of their legal right to self-determination. The Court cannot be a witting party to that.
A point was raised by a fellow blogger by the name of Anne de Bretagne:
Sabah which was a separate entity that was under direct British colonial control received independence from their British colonialists on 31st August 1963 and for FIFTEEN DAYS was technically truly INDEPENDENT. However on 16 September 1963, it was annexed by Malaysia.
The proviso in the NEW Malaysia Constitution left no room for doubt that the new Federation of Malaysia held on the basis of the union of FOUR independent states namely MALAYA (old Malaya union or old federation of Malaya states/sultanates), SARAWAK, SINGAPORE, and finally, SABAH.
when Singapore exited on 9th August 1965 from the newly formed “Malaysia Federation” whose newly framed Constitution specified that the Federation held based on the provision that the new Malaysia Federation held IF all 4 states were together, Singapore’s expulsion rendered the existence of the new federation null and void.
In this context, it is only common sense that the continuing annexation of Sabah to a federation that does not constitutionally hold even by the new Malaysia Federation standard cannot be legal. In essence, the continuing annexation of Sabah by today’s Peninsular Malaysia is not only illegal, it is also morally wrong. To validate the federation, a NEW REFERENDUM must be held. But Kuala Lumpur has not done it. We can only wonder why.
So why is Malaysia continuing to illegally annex Sabah? If Malaysia wants to legalise their hold on Sabah, it is only fair that a new referendum to ask the people of Sabah must be held. But Malaysia cannot continue to use underhanded tactics, and make the world think that their fantasmagorical historical fantasies are real!
What can we establish from this?
1. After World War II, Sabah was independent – for 15 days.
2. Sabah’s inclusion in Malaysia is questionable due to exclusion of Singapore which renders the new constitution of Malaysia inoperative. But that is an internal question which should be settled among Malaysians.
3. While Sabah’s annexation to Malaysia is questionable – it’s annexation to the Philippines is also questionable because the feudal historic title has been superseded when the people of North Borneo exercised their right to self determination in 1963. For short, the people of have declared independence from the Sultan of Sulu – and by extension, the Philippines.
4. Whether the people of Sabah want another referendum is for the people of Sabah to determine.
5. The matter is about the Sultan of Sulu exercising his property rights in the state of Sabah and has got nothing to do about Philippine territorial claims to Sabah.
There’s more to renewed focus on Sabah than meets the eye
The Philippine government knows exactly where it stands on this matter – and that’s the reason why it has not pursued the dormant Sabah claim.
However, the Sabah issue has not been decisively laid to rest by the Philippine government – for political purposes.
Personally, I understand the Sultan’s displeasure. It is no different from the displeasure of Filipino landowners whose lands have been distributed by land reform. The Filipino landowners were subjected to Philippines law, while the Sultan’s claim has been reviewed under the lens of modern international law. While the feudal historic titles have been consigned to the dustbin of history by the acts of self-determination during the era of decolonization, the conflicts that arise from it continue to haunt the post-feudal world order.
This renewed focus on Sabah, has the footprint of a playbook wherein an incumbent who is failing in domestic policy uses an external bogeyman to rally citizens and distract people from issues closer to home – JOBLESSNESS, POVERTY, WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION, CRONY CAPITALISM, and a FAILED ELECTORAL PROCESS.
This is a playbook which is being executed at the expense of the Sultan of Sulu – and the Filipinos. Keep your eyes on the ball folks – PNoy’s “Team Patay” gonna get you.

Resolving the Sabah incident – Noynoy style

February 28, 2013
The “deadline” for the Filipino followers of the Sultanate of Sulu to surrender or leave Sabah may have already passed, but it seems they are defiant and have decided not to go home. Adding to their problems is that they are running out of food, and that the Aquino government has given them an ultimatum to surrender.
Now, if you put yourself in the followers’ shoes, why should you leave Sabah? If you go home, there is only punishment waiting for you from the government of “Imperial Manila” for possible violations of laws, which of course president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s government is still doing research on. If you stay, you’re running out of food, but so far, it seems that the Malaysian government hasn’t made moves to deport your group back to the Philippines. That may soon change, though.

Underneath it all, if you’re a follower of the Sultanate of Sulu, why should you heed the demands of a government whom you don’t recognize, and quite possibly, doesn’t recognize you either? Why should you heed the demands of a government who is only too willing to side with the Malaysians instead of helping you with your territorial claim? Why should you heed the demands of a government who apparently ignored the sultanate and gave control of majority of Sulu to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) through the Bangsamoro Agreement?
Kaya naman pala. (So that’s why.)
Maybe at this point, it would be appropriate to ask if the Sulu Sultanate would like to consider full independence from both the Philippines and Malaysia.
It doesn’t really matter whether the Sultanate considers itself part of the Filipino “nation” or not.
I assumed that after facing crunch time situations such as the stand-off with China, or the hostage situation with Mendoza, the Aquino government has finally learned to deal with such. I was dead wrong.
I don’t condone what the Sultan and his followers did, but who can blame them when it seems that “enough is enough” from a government that has largely ignored them?
It makes you wonder, does BS Aquino have a backup plan now that the Sultanate’s followers are staying put?
The resolution of who really owns Sabah is a complex process that will involve countless periods of time reconciling old documents, sorting out historical events, and making concessions between Malaysia and Philippines.
It looks like neither BS Aquino nor his government wants anything to do with that.
If I were BS Aquino, I wouldn’t want to add another “problem” to my list. After all, I have to micromanage the Liberal Party (LP) campaign. I have to make sure I don’t piss the Malaysians off, as they were the brokers for the Bangsamoro Framework agreement. And I just signed into law Republic Act 10368, which forms a basis for evaluating and compensating supposed human rights victims under the Marcos regime. I don’t have time to deal with the Sulu Sultanate’s followers, never mind a letter from them asking to be consulted on the peace talks got lost in the “bureaucratic maze.
As far as BS Aquino is concerned, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his band of merry men are making him look bad. And that’s exactly where the problem lies.
BS Aquino’s government has had a track record of poor diplomatic and negotiation skills, and how he’s handled this mess with the sultan only adds to the track record.
What’s next for this ongoing incident? The longer it goes on, the more that the Aquino government looks incompetent. The inability of BS Aquino and his people to deal effectively with the sultanate’s people, and his refusal to talk to the “offending” party directly, shows unpreparedness for situations that he can’t control.
The sultanate may have started the fire, but it’s in BS Aquino’s hands to resolve it. To restate the obvious, simply telling them to pack up and go home isn’t going to work.
[Photo courtesy Malaysia Today.]

Should the Sultanate of Sulu demand full independence from the Philippines and Malaysia?

February 25, 2013

At the end of the day, what exactly is ‘the Philippines’ to begin with? The way things are going, it seems it will remain no more than the bunch of tropical islands around which the 16th Century Spanish crown drew a ring and named after their king. To this day, Filipinos suffer from the same identity crisis they have suffered for the last 400 years. What does it mean to be “Filipino” anyway?
The question of what being “Filipino” means is relevant today in light of the 27th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power “revolution” which, true to form, is being put up as the most relevant thing to reflect upon this month. Never mind that the long “dormant” issue of the Philippines’ long-standing claim on the Malaysian state of Sabah has come to the fore again thanks to a hundred-odd armed Muslim-Filipinos supposedly representing the Sultan of Sulu who are currently in a standoff with Malaysian government forces there.

The Filipinos are calling themselves “Royal Sulu Sultanate Army,” according to a report from the Malaysian news portal The Star Online.
They claim to be followers of “a descendant of the Sultan of Sulu” and are demanding that the subjects of the Sulu Sultan in Sabah not be deported to the Philippines, the report said.
A Philippine military officer interviewed by Reuters also said the men were followers of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu – an island group off the southern Philippines – who had been invited to Sabah by a Malaysian opposition politician to discuss land issues.
The Sulu sultanate, first founded in the 1400s, was once a regional power center, controlling islands in the Muslim southern Philippines and parts of Borneo including Sabah until its demise a century ago.
Malaysia pays a token amount to the Sultanate each year for the “rental” of Sabah state – an arrangement that stretches back to British colonial times.
The Philippine government had late last year entered into an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) effectively creating an “enlarged Bangsamoro” autonomous region in Mindanao which will encompass the prior-existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and parts of Lanao del Norte and Cotabato among others. The new autonomous region will be allowed implementation of Muslim Shari’ah Law.
The creation of what is tantamount to an autonomous Islamic state within Philippine territory (a nation supposedly governed on secular principles) as part of a “peace process” the Philippine Government had initiated with the terrorist MILF raises the question of what exactly qualifies claim of anyterritory within the Philippines to independence from the Manila government. Is it the claimants’ capacity for violence and armed aggression? That the creation of the “enlarged Bangsamoro” was part of a peace deal implies that continued war was the only alternative.
Perhaps then, this is the key to salvation for the embattled followers of the Sultan of Sulu currently besieged in Sabah. If they can demonstrate a convincing capacity for violence — like the MILF had — then a “peace deal” with the Philippine and Malaysian governments could earn them the same prize. Indeed, as part of the first stage of the implementation of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III’s “framework agreement”, members of the MILF armed command and their families will enjoy first crack at the dole-out of government “development assistance”….
Ochoa said Administrative Order No. 37, which President Aquino signed on February 13, will ensure that development projects and programs are implemented in Bangsamoro, a new autonomous region that will be established in Mindanao, for MILF combatants and their families as well as communities that will be affected by the framework agreement signed in October last year.
The task force, according to Ochoa, is mandated to develop and implement programs that will respond to the health, education and livelihood needs of MILF priority beneficiaries and poverty-stricken communities throughout Mindanao.
Violence, it seems, does pay in the Philippines.
This could be an important point to mull over for the Sultan of Sulu’s loyal followers. It is interesting to note, as a matter of fact, that this “loyalty” is unabashedly for the Sulu Sultanate and not, explicitly, for the “Philippine” Nation. Indeed, the positions on the matter of both the Philippine and Malaysian governments are framed by artifacts of the legacies of European colonial domination of both countries. This makes the Sulu Sultanate’s fundamental interests and its notional future on those bases incompatible with either one as the underpinnings of their claim pre-date the Spanish and United States’ Philippine colonial government and the British Empire’s administration of their Malayan colonies.
Indeed, step back further, and we will find that not only does the Bangsamoro and the Sulu Sultanate have a strong claim to autonomy from imperial Manila (and any foreign government that is a product of European imperialism) but much of the rest of the Philippines as well. Ignoring for a while the strength and endurance of Europe’s colonial legacy in the Far East and the administrative concepts it created such as “the Philippines” we can find straightforward sense in award-winning intellectual David Martinez’s provocative proposal articulated in his book A Country of Our Own; that…
The country [...] comprises five regions (“nations”): Cordillera, Luzon, The Visayas, Mindanao, and Bangsamoro. He proposes holding legally binding referenda in each of these places to determine whether those who live there wish to remain inside the Philippines or form their own independent country.
The former countries of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and now internally-unstable Rwanda, come to mind when one thinks of what the Philippines is all about — an agglomeration of fiefdoms that remain stuck together for the purpose of keeping alive nostalgic relics of 19th Century “nationalist” thinking and not for any real practical or measurable ends befitting a modern 21st Century society.
Are the citizens of the Sultanate of Sulu really serious about asserting their right to exist as a nation? Perhaps it should reconsider remaining in bed with the Philippine government and go for the gold. After all, with regard to the effort to come to terms with the question of what it really means to be “Filipino”, even the brightest amongst our self-proclaimed “thought leaders” continue to scratch their heads.
[Photo courtesy The Australian.]

Sabah stand-off: Malaysia Imposes Trade Embargo On Filipinos


BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi – The Malaysian government has started to impose a trade embargo on Muslim Filipino traders from southern Philippines as part of their efforts to force fighters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram to leave Kampung Tanduo in Felda Sahabat 17 in Sabah, where they have been holed up since Feb. 9.

Gov. Sadikul Sahali said the embargo that the Sabah government is imposing on Muslim traders from Southern Philippines would greatly affect his constituents here.
Sahali said many residents in the province depend on Malay food products and other prime commodities particularly rice for their basic needs.

Local traders and stores sell Malaysian rice at ₱470 per 25-kilo sack of rice while Philippine-produced rice with the same variety sells for ₱1,100 to ₱1,200 per sack of 25 kilos.

Many people here are expected to suffer economically as a result of the trade embargo, a trader in this capital town said.

"I have to admit that our people here are using and consuming Malaysian products. This is because of our nearness to the federal state of Malaysia and the prices of their foodstuffs are lower compared to the products sold in the country," an elderly resident here said.

Likewise he said, many residents of Sulu go to Sabah to seek greener pastures. Job opportunities in that state are unlimited unlike in the province or even the entire Philippines, he added.

Sahali said if Sabah continues to impose a ban on trading with them, he will simply ask traders here to get their rice and other food supplies in Zamboanga City.

"Never mind the price. What is important is that we will be able to have rice for the consumption of the people here," he said.

Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo led by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III intensified yesterday its reaching out to the world community, this time to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Abraham J. Idjirani, officially appointed by Kiram III as the royal spokesperson of the sultanate, said yesterday the Sultan wrote a letter of appeal to the ICRC on Saturday.

He said Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Richard "Dick" Gordon has agreed to forward the Sultan's letter to the ICRC.

"The letter of the Sultan was given Sunday morning" to Gordon, Idjirani said.

As this developed, Idjirani said in an interview yesterday the stand of the Sultan is still the same: no pulling out from Lahad Datu, Sabah.

"Unless there is a dialogue with Malaysia, there are no plans to return to the Philippines," he said.

Kiram III has also sent words to his people in Lahad Datu to "remain cool" and avoid provocations.

Idjirani said Kiram III appealed for help from the ICRC in the wake of information from Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the crown prince, who, along with over 200 of the sultanate's men, are still encamped since Feb. 12 in Kampung Tanduao, Lahad Datu.

Idjirani said at least two of the rajah muda's men have fallen ill.

"It is nothing serious as of the moment," he said, "but it is important the overall health or condition of the crown prince's people is known through the ICRC," said Idjirani.

The food embargo being imposed by the Malaysian government which started on Wednesday, he said, is still in effect.

So, it is not remote, he said, that some of the Moros who belong to the sultan's followers still holed up in Lahad Datu will get sick.

Earlier, Idjirani appealed to the Malaysian authorities to lift the food blockade, especially since forcing people to go hungry violates the tenets of Islam, which both Malaysians and Muslim Filipinos equally respect and observe.

On the other hand, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by founding Chairman Nur Misuari also appealed to the UN to send its peacekeeping force to Sabah to prevent any violence from breaking out.

Over 2,000 MNLF leaders and commanders made the appeal through a resolution issued on Feb. 21 during the "MNLF Leadership Meeting" that Misuari convened in Zamboanga City.

In a separate interview, the MNLF chieftain appealed to the Malaysian prime minister to solve the current crisis "in a fraternal way" to prevent bloodshed.

At the same time, Misuari warned that the MNLF will help the rajah muda's men even if only a drop their blood is spilled.

Over in Malaysia, the Home Ministry deferred to the Wisma Putra (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in making a decision on the Philippine request for an extension of the deadline on the stay of the Filipinos in the Sabah standoff.

In an article on the New Straits Times online edition dated Feb. 24, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein objected to an extension that is "too long" should there be one.

"What is important is that we will not compromise on the country's safety and the dignity of the people in resolving the matter peacefully," he said.

He said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hanifah Aman had called him on the phone. Malaysia described the sultan's men as "intruders."

On the other hand, Kiram III said he sent his younger brother (Agbimuddin) and their followers on a journey home to Sabah to establish their ancestral rights on the island.

Malaysia's deadline for the Filipinos to pull out peacefully has been extended a few times already.

Meanwhile, at least the Malaysian government has acknowledged that the sultan's descendants involved in the crisis are not members of Abu Sayyaf.

"The people should understand that the situation there is rather complex and view it in perspective as it differs from other cases involving al-Maunah, Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah. The intruders in Lahad Datu are not militants or terrorists," said the home minister.

Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the Philippine government is focused on efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict involving a group of armed Filipinos holed up in Sabah rather than proposals to revive the claim over the ancestral land.

She said the matter of pursuing the Sabah claim will be tackled "at the proper time" without harming the country's relations with Malaysia.

She said a government team is now looking into the "historical and legal context" of the country's claim over Sabah. (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling) (http://bit.ly/WcMkmo)

Manila Bulletin 

UAE: Philippines has "solid legal foundation" to claim Sabah

Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III with his sister at a news briefing Tuesday in Manila. Photo: AFP

Published in Emirates 24/7; A Dubai Online News of Dubai Media Incororated

A veteran Filipino diplomat has urged the Philippine government to "revisit" its claim to Sabah which has "solid legal foundation" and correct its past mistakes by not playing into Malaysia's hands anymore.

This develops as Manila has asked Kuala Lumpur for another extension—with no definite time but for a few days—to convince the followers of a Filipino sultan in southern Philippines who are holed up in Sabah to leave peacefully.

"The Sabah standoff should rouse the Philippine Rip van Winkle attitude towards our claim to the area," Lauro Baja, formerly the Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations, said. "It provides the country with a unique but sensitive opportunity to revisit our claim."

Media reports on Wednesday night said that Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has asked Malaysia to extend for an indefinite number of days its deadline for the Filipinos holing up in Sabah's Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town to leave or face arrest and deportation.

Writing for Vera Files' news site on Wednesday night, Baja said the Philippines might be able to correct some missteps in the past through creative imagination and skillful diplomacy.

He said these missteps included moves by former president Ferdinand Marcos in the 1960s of secretly training Moro from southern Philippines to reclaim Sabah and the Philippines accepting a UN-sanctioned referendum that created the Federation of Malaysia.

The covert training held on the Philippine island of Corregidor resulted to an alleged massacre of young Moro recruits by their military handlers after they tried to escape. The referendum creating the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, on the other hand, was eventually accepted by the Philippines where North Borneo became a state of Malaysia known as Sabah. A UN Commission had found that popular opinion was in favour of North Borneo becoming a Malaysian state.

Baja said that President Benigno Aquino III must convene the National Security Council to consider pursuing the country's claim to Sabah on behalf of the Sultanate of Sulu, as the ongoing standoff has far reaching consequences.

"As days pass, the confluence of events makes it imperative that the Philippines now define its policy on Sabah," he stressed. "To continue putting the claim in the backburner is not a policy. This is an illusion, a mirage."

Failure to pursue would mean wasting previous efforts made by the Philippines before the UN and other international forums since the 1960s, he said. It could also mean violating the Philippine Constitution and other rules, as well as a Supreme Court decision declaring that the Philippines has dominion over Sabah.

"The solid legal foundation of our claim still exists," Baja stressed.

He warned the Aquino administration against going along with Malaysia on Sabah, as Kuala Lumpur is applying 'effectivités', or the effectiveness principle, in dealing with the standoff crisis. Effectivités is defined in diplomacy as the conduct of the administrative authorities as proof of the effective exercise of territorial jurisdiction in the region during the colonial period.

Baja said it is understandable how Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III feels as he has claimed that the present administration, like its predecessors, seemed not interested in pursuing the Sabah claim at the diplomatic level.

He noted that in the transfer of sovereignty document signed by the Philippine government and the sultan of Sulu, it was provided that if the former failed in pursuing the Sabah claim the agreement shall be deemed voided.

The sultan's followers, led by his brother, Sulu Crown Prince Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, travelled to Sabah from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, home to Muslim minority, to stake their claim to the disputed territory.

Malaysia pays a token annual rental fee to the Sultanate of Sulu for Sabah, prompting Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to say earlier that the country's claim to Sabah has legal basis.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Be Perfect?

Matthew 5:43-48
"You have heard that it was said, ´You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.´ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you became a man in order to show me, in your own flesh and blood, the way to holiness. In every word and deed of yours recorded in the Gospel, you teach and reveal to me the secret of a life worthy of eternity. I believe that you are with me now, and that you will use these moments of prayer to increase my faith, hope and love. Here I am, Lord, to know, love and serve you with all my heart. Amen.
Petition: Lord, help me to seek holiness out of love for you and others. Amen.
1. “Be Perfect ”: Who is telling us to be perfect? Christ the Word, he through whom all things were made, through whom we came into being : our Lord, our Creator, who from all eternity longs to see each one of us be made perfect in love. This is not a suggestion; it is a command. He says it to his disciples with energy, even knowing that for them alone it is impossible. For God, though, nothing is impossible. We are reminded today that our saintliness is a possibility; it is God’s plan. Miracles happen when we believe. God is not through with any one of us yet. All God asks is that we be perfect – not a whole life in one fell swoop – but, rather, every present moment, one at a time. That is what I have – this present moment. This is what I have to perfect.
2. Why Does God Command Us to Become Perfect? God’s demand that we seek and strive after the perfection of holiness becomes more understandable when we contemplate the increasingly dire situation of our world. That world, so gravely in need of Christ’s salvation, is the starkest and most palpable reason why any one of us should pursue holiness. What is the value of Christian holiness in the world? One early Christian apologist put it in these terms:
To sum up all in one word –– what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them” (From the Letter to Diognetus).
3. Seeking Holiness is a Labor of Love: In a world of shifting sands, we can offer solid ground; in a world of blind forces of spiritual and material violence, we can offer the persuasive power of Christian goodness. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was heard to say that holiness is not the privilege of a few, but the obligation of all. When with simple and profound faith, we delve into that link between our striving for holiness and the salvation of souls, we can discover a new impetus and a new strength. The challenge of seeking holiness can become a labor of love, driven by a heart aflame with zeal for the salvation of all our brothers and sisters.
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, the world needs men and women of God; the world needs saints. I know this. I know you call me in a personal, urgent and insistent way to seek my holiness. For the sake of my brothers and sisters, for their salvation, Lord, make me holy. Amen.  
Resolution: I will dedicate some time today to pray to Our Lady and entrust to her, with living faith and childlike simplicity, the entire project of my personal sanctification.