The Sabah Claim is Valid

Member, Ruma Bichara
Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (Sabah)

Sultanate of Sulu’s Sabah in Borneo: the State in Question.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is in response to an article recently featured in the South China Morning Post written by one Bunn Nagara of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia, entitled, “Why the Philippines has no justifiable claim to Sabah and never had.”

ONE, it is actually for the Sultanate of Sulu to lay claim on Sabah, not the Philippine government. The latter was only for political exigency given authority by then Sultan Esmail Kiram I to claim Sabah on behalf of the sultanate. And it is to be noted that not all in Sulu – for example, the House of Patikul, has approved of the Sultan’s initiative. 

[There is also no written document that says that the Sultanate of Sulu had already ‘permanently’ surrendered itself to Philippine sovereignty]. 

And these truths shall endure even up to the next 100 or two hundred years. At any time and henceforth, by any means necessary and available, the Sultanate of Sulu, itself, still has the option to secede from the rest of the country (Philippines) and become a federated [if not independent] state; and to claim, own and rule Sabah. 

TWO, the denial by Kuala Lumpur today of the right of the Sultanate of Sulu to claim Sabah [Mahathir has said it loud that “there is no claim”] is nothing but new. It is sheer arrogance and ignorance. Peninsular Malaysians were not that audacious before [in the 60s or 70s] were it not for the stand then of Tun Mustapha Harun, who favored ‘Muslim’ Kuala Lumpur, rather than ‘Christian’ Manila. The Tun was a known Islamist who wanted to make Sabah an Islamic state. Only for him to realize later that Kuala Lumpur had other plans.

THREE, this one Bunn Nagara of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia is pretentiously but bald-facely drumbeating the persistent Malaysian stand on the Sabah issue. But not necessarily Brunei’s – because Brunei, itself, also claims the right to at least half of North Borneo [as can be proven by Sultan Abdul-Mobin’s signing of a lease on North Borneo in favor of Baron de Overbeck and his company in 1877, or just two weeks before Overbeck [and Alfred Dent] negotiated for and obtained a similar document from Sultan Jamalul-A’lam of Sulu]. Nagara is at his best a journalist, not a historian and certainly not a lawyer. 

FOUR, it is a fact that from the 17th to the 19th centuries (or before 1962) neither Britain (the colonial master of what is now Malaysia) nor any foreign entity (political, military or commercial) has ever questioned the sovereignty and or proprietary right of the Sultanate of Sulu over North Borneo. And this is the reason why Dent and Overbeck in 1878 must have to get the lease document from the Sultan of Sulu in order for them to have concrete legal basis and authority in governing the vast and rich estate, conduct commerce and put industries therein. And it was also for fear of the Spaniards in Manila annexing Sabah as part of their colony [to be sold later by Spain to the Americans in the Treaty of Paris) that tempted Sultan Jamalul-A’lam of Sulu to lease Sabah to the British company. 

[And, by the way, the then Sultan of Sulu (Sultan Badaruddin II) was not a party to the 1885 Madrid Protocol [which is a mere loot-sharing modus operandi between and among shameless, disgraceful colonists].

FIVE, as to historical accounts, the ISIS fellow is also in no position to belie what is already written in history books, reflected and implied in the 1878 Sabah lease, and what is already enshrined in the hearts and minds of generations of Orang Suluk and Orang Badjao. [Mat Salleh, who fought against the British North Borneo Chartered Company in Sabah from 1894 to 1900, was of Tausug-Sama blood, Mr. Nagara]. Now, this Nagara is an ultra-nationalist Malaysian propagandist and he has yet to present a research finding or a clear citation from reputable historians to support his non-scholarly ‘interpretation'[that there is no history to talk about Sabah as having been given by Sultan Muhyiddin of Brunei to Sultan Salahuddin Bakhtiyar of Sulu in the 16th century as a token (in fulfillment of a promise) for helping the former defeat his opponent in that Brunei civil war]. 

SIX, the late Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino, Jr. in his offer to support Kuala Lumpur against then President Ferdinand Marcos (who was initially bent on helping the Sultanate of Sulu claim Sabah, even through force) did not speak on behalf of any Sultan of Sulu. Aquino was not that time or in any way representing the best interest of the Philippine government regarding Sabah, but rather his own (Aquino’s) political agenda (of dreaming to become Philippine President) and personal interest only (which made him a traitor in the eyes of the Sultanate of Sulu and its people). 

SEVEN, the Manila Accord of 1963 is explicit and unrelenting on the clause “without prejudice to Manila continuing its claim” [that time by virtue of Sultan Esmail Kiram I giving authority to the Philippine government on claiming Sabah, so as not to be incorporated to the Federation of Malaya]. The Sultanate of Sulu today can even terminate that authority at once.

EIGHT, it was the nascent Federation of Malaya [a British plan] and using the ‘rigged’ result of the referendum conducted by the Cobbold Commission that incorporated (without bloodshed, but through bribery, trickery and betrayal) that incorporated Sabah into the federation. Only 0.6 percent of Sabahans were polled. Kuala Lumpur went on violating the 1963 Manila Accord as it unilaterally proceeded in annexing Sabah, acting not through decisions made that is of “common consent” by the parties.

NINE, political leaders in peninsular Malaysia were so successful in their stratagem and enticement of even the late Tun Mustapha Harun (who was of Tausug-Sama blood) and Tun Fuad Stephens (who was of Kadazan-Dusun ancestry) – both not peninsular Malaysians – for the two to entirely deny or ignore the claim of the Sultanate of Sulu over Sabah and to become ‘puppet’ ministers of Kuala Lumpur in administering the resource-rich state on its behalf and for capitalist interest. Although, years later, the former (who died in 1995) pitiably fell into disfavor and removed from power by Kuala Lumpur, as they found him in the mid 70s working on a plan to let Sabah secede from the federation [and become independent]. They also found the latter (Jules Pavitt Stephens, Sr. in real life), who died in a mysterious plane crash in 1976, as equally sharing (in principle) the fervor with Tun Mustapha in wanting to make Sabah free. They were eventually replaced by pro Kuala Lumpur Malay-Chinese technocrats. 

TEN, of what use or to what end is ASEAN solidarity if it continues to trample under its feet the historical, legal and proprietary right of the Sultanate of Sulu over Sabah? To fill the purses and bellies of peninsular Malaysians, the Malay-Chinese settlers and the likes of Bunn Nagara who until the present are raping Sabah of its nature’s bounties, agricultural produce and oil? Or, is it to exonerate the Philippine government for stealing or stripping the Sultanate of Sulu its sovereignty? The Sultanate of Sulu already existed when there was no ASEAN yet – when even most of the countries that now compose it were still settlements. [Sultan Jamalul-Kiram II even refused to join or ally with Aguinaldo’s fight for Philippine independence]. 

ELEVEN, the eloquence of Nagara’s article is equivalent to its fallacy: International law on territorial claims has already become a geopolitical tool for imperialist powers (US, British and European powers as against China, for example), [with such as the ICJ] subject always to their manipulation or dictate, thus, resulting in biased and oppressive rulings. The Sultanate of Sulu owning Sabah is not an interpretation of history. It is a fact of history. 

TWELVE, the Sultanate of Sulu now under its legitimate and ruling Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram is not defunct. By God’s Grace and Wisdom, it has survived and still exists. In Shaa Allah, it will endure. It continues to aspire for what is best for it. Muslimedia.PH

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