|By AZMAN AB GHANI ([email protected])|
|Tuesday, 26 February 2013 20:10|
DELICATE as the situation in Lahad Datu, Sabah may be, the authorities will have to come up with a solution quick before things get out of hand.
With unconfirmed reports of gun shots being heard coming from the Tanduao village and discontent said to be building up within the ranks of the Filipino armed intruders on Sunday, this is the best time as any for the police and government to resolve the problem.
After all, nobody likes having armed men roaming around within their territory. At the same time, the more we delay taking action, the more it will indicate a weakness on our part.
As the 48-hour deadline imposed by the Malaysian authorities to the "Army of the Sulu Sultanate" draw near, Malaysian Digest has compiled reports on the issue from the Philippine's and foreign media's point of view.
Inquirer Global Nation reported Tuesday that Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his men are not going to leave Sabah despite stern warning issued by President Benigno Aquino and the nearing of the deadline imposed on them by Malaysian police.
Aquino reportedly told Jamalul to recall his followers, about 30 of them armed, from the fishing village and end the stand-off that started since Feb 9.
He also warned Jamalul and his followers that an investigation will be conducted into possible violations of laws by the sultan, his followers, and collaborators "engaged in the foolhardy act".
Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesperson of the heirs to the Sulu Sultanate, said Jamalul was willing to be arrested if the Aquino's government decides to file a case against him.
Idjirani also insisted that the “royal forces” has no intention to trigger a war when they occupied the village of Tanduao.
In another report, the Philippines' government showed its seriousness in resolving the issue by sending a ship on Sunday night to receive the non-combatants from the armed group led by Agbimuddin Kiram, Jamalul's brother.
It also reported that the Department of Foreign Affairs has sent a senior diplomat to Kuala Lumpur to coordinate efforts with the Malaysian authorities toward speedy resolution of the Sabah stand-off as the situation now dragged on into its third week.
On Monday, the portal reported that Sahid Asaral Aswad, the first cousin of Jamalul was detained in Tanduao. Jamalul's spokesman Idjirani pointed out that Aswad was not part of the so-called "royal forces" and is in fact a Malaysian citizen.
It was now not clear why he was arrested.
On Sunday, Inquirer Global Nation said the Sultan of Sulu had asked the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to help his followers who are running out of provisions in the village.
Jamalul reportedly wrote to the UNCHR in Manila on Feb 20, asking for protection for the 250 followers, whose lives, he claimed, were threatened by a food blockade. He has also written to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei asking for help in resolving the standoff peacefully.
Philippine Daily Inquirer in the meantime reported that a helicopter hovered over the village on Sunday night dropping flyers urging the followers to leave the area and return to Tawi-Tawi island.
There was also a report stating that the diplomatic and security crisis has revived the age-old question of who is the real Sultan of Sulu?
The report said that since the crisis started, two more members of the Kiram clan, both claiming to be the 35th sultan of Sulu, have emerged, airing different views on the stand-off in Sabah.
Despite their conflicting claims to the title, which Jamalul insists is his, the other two, Fuad Kiram and Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram agreed with their cousin that Sabah belongs to the Sulu Sultanate.
On the other hand, a BBC feature article on Sunday delved deep into the heart of the problem that was said to date back to the colonial era in the region.
The issue, it said, has been a stumbling block in relations between Malaysia and the Philippines for decades, and a factor behind the continuing violence and instability on the islands of Sulu.
Reuters on Feb 14 created quite a stir when raised the issue of different versions to the stand-off by both Malaysian and Philippines' authorities.
It reported that the Malaysian authorities said the intruders were armed while their Philippines counterpart claimed the men were unarmed and "had been invited to Sabah by a Malaysian opposition politician to discuss land issues."
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has since refuted the claim, the local media reported.
Last week, Radyo Inquirer 990 AM reported Aquino had told Jamalul that guns would never resolved the Sabah issue and said that the avenue of peaceful and open dialogue was still available.
"The presence of an armed group in Lahad Datu will only bring us further away from resolving these issues,” Aquino was quoted as saying.
The president also disclosed that Philippine armed forces and police have been actively communicating with their Malaysian counterparts “to peacefully resolve the situation,” while other agencies of government have also been tasked to prepare for any contingencies that could potentially affect Filipino citizens in Malaysia.
A number of emissaries has also been sent to the Kiram family to ask them to convince the group in Lahad Datu to return home peacefully.
Jamalul's followers made a boat trip from their homes on remote islands in the southern Philippines to occupy the fishing village about three weeks ago, after the sultan gave them a blessing to live there.
Jamalul said he is the head of the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the stand-off, as well as southern Philippine islands.
Malaysia has set Tuesday, Feb. 26, as deadline for the group to leave Sabah.
The deadline was first set on Friday, but was extended to Sunday, and again extended to Tuesday.