The Sun Daily
Posted on 18 February 2013 – 09:08pm
MANILA (Feb 18, 2013): Followers of a Philippine sultan who crossed to Sabah this month will not leave and are reclaiming the area as their ancestral territory amid a tense standoff, the sultan said.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram said his followers – some 400 people including 20 gunmen – were resolute in staying despite being cornered by security forces, with the Malaysian government insisting the group return to the Philippines.
“Why should we leave our own home? In fact, they (the Malaysians) are paying rent (to us),” he told reporters in Manila.
“Our followers will stay in (the Sabah town of) Lahad Datu. Nobody will be sent to the Philippines. Sabah is our home,” he said.
The sultan did not directly threaten violence but said, “there will be no turning back for us”.
Malaysian officials have said many of the group have weapons, but Kiram insisted his followers made the trip unarmed.
The sultanate’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, later said the sultan’s brother Raja Muda Abimuddin Kiram, who led the group to Sabah, had told him via telephone that the party was preparing to stay.
“The objective is to reside now in that place permanently, considering the sultanate owns Sabah by rights of sovereignty,” he said.
Idjirani said there were about 400 followers of the sultanate in the area, including about 20 who were armed.
He said the group would not instigate violence but would resist if provoked.
“We recognise the capability of Malaysia. We don’t have the arms and capacity but we have the historical truth,” he said, adding that the group’s “fate is to see the recognition they are entitled to … or they die defending their ancestral rights”.
Idjirani said President Benigno Aquino’s senior aides had been in contact with the sultan and were willing to deliver a letter to the Malaysian government on his behalf for negotiations. –AFP