Sulu group, security nabbed in Sabah


At 1:37 a.m. on Tuesday, about 1,000 people, mostly armed men and a handful of women, boarded speedboats on Simunul Island in Tawi-Tawi and left for Lahad Datu, a coastal area in Sabah in northern Borneo.

For the group led by Radjah Mudah Ajbimuddin Kiram, there was nothing unusual about the trip, as they were just going home.

“We want to live in our place. Sabah is our territory, as it is part of the ancestral domain of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo,” Radjah Mudah said.

“One more thing, it’s as if we were not Filipinos,” he said. “The President of the Philippines pays no attention to us.”

Radjah Mudah is one of the three leaders of the Kiram family, heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu that owns Sabah.

But taking possession of Sabah is not as easy as taking boats and landing on the shore.


Malaysian security forces blocked their landing and demanded they surrender their weapons.

“They surrounded us—me and my group of civilians and royal security forces—and, of course, they were armed,” Radjah Mudah told the Inquirer by phone Thursday.

“But there was no fighting. We talked. We have an open line to a high Malaysian official and he talked to us, referring to me as ‘Your Excellency, Your Royal Highness,’” Radjah Mudah said.

But he described the situation as a “standstill” and an “open negotiation status.” He said he was surrounded by troops from his Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu.

The Malaysian government was not so sure what the group of Radjah Mudah was.

Reports from Kuala Lumpur on Thursday said Malaysian security forces had surrounded about 100 armed men believed to be from a breakaway rebel faction in the southern Philippines.

Sultan’s descendants

But a ranking intelligence official from the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the “foreigners” arrested in Sabah were not militants or terrorists from the Philippines but descendants of the Sultan of Sulu who had been monitored to have sailed for Sabah last week.

The official requested anonymity, as he was not authorized to talk to reporters about the matter, which he said was within the purview of foreign policy.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, had no clear information on what was going on in Sabah.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the department was trying to get information from the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur about the “intruders” from the Philippines who were arrested in Sabah.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters that Philippine officials were working with Malaysian authorities to “get to the bottom of the incident.”

Exaggerated reports

The military intelligence official said the “foreigners” were neither armed nor members of the Abu Sayyaf as reported by Malaysian media.

In fact, the official said, the group was composed of people who regularly traveled to Sabah “to trade.”

The official said the Philippine military had already spoken with the Malaysian military to discuss the reported arrest of the supposedly armed men.

“We’ve been talking regularly and we have discussed this supposed group of armed men. So far, there are no problems,” the official said in Filipino.

The officials said he believed the reports were “exaggerated,” following intelligence reports that the group of descendants of the Sultan of Sulu had a meeting recently and decided to “continue their family’s claim to Sabah.”

“Apparently, in the meeting, the followers or descendants were told that those who would join the journey to Sabah would be given a portion of land. That is why there was a large group that went there,” the official said.

The official said the group left for Sabah last week.

Radjah Mudah told the Inquirer that his group left for Sabah a day before President Aquino visited the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stronghold in Sultan Kudarat.

Aquino visited the MILF’s Camp Darapanan to launch with the group’s leader, Murad Ebrahim, a social program for MILF guerrillas and their families and Muslim communities and to promote the Mindanao peace process.

Sabah is ours

Asked if the departure for Sabah had anything to do with the peace talks between the government and the MILF, Radjah Mudah said: “Yes. They talk to everybody except to the group that they should really talk with for lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Asked if his group was seeking sanctuary in Malaysia, Radjah Mudah said no. Sabah, he said, belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia is simply leasing it at 5,300 Malaysian ringgit, or P77,000, a year.

Abraham Julpa Idjirani, secretary general and national spokesperson of the Sultanate of Sulu, said the decision was part of a royal decree issued by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Zamboanga City a month and a half ago.

Idjirani said the sultanate had a 100,000-strong security force. The 15,000-strong Royal Security Force was established in 1999, he said.

He said the administration of former President Joseph Estrada recognized the Royal Security Force.

The administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recognized the Royal Security Force as partners in peace and development, he said.—With a report from Tarra Quismundo

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Lahi

    NeilLuna the point here is murder is still a murder even after a hundred years had passed, just an analogy. The land grabber Malaysia stole it from its rightful owners that is the root caused of the trouble. Since the Philippines has been no balls in the international disputes we did an injustice to our Muslim brothers by allowing the Malaysians to illegally squat in Sabah. Rebellion in Mindanao is more of economic than ideology or religion as far as iI believe, our Muslim brothers are peaceful until our corrupt government under the Magnanakaw Marcos Family at mga Tuta niya  marginalized them. If so happened that Sabah is reclaimed then let our Filipino Muslim Brothers rule Sabah in autonomy if that is what they want but never the robber malaysian over Sabah. Give back Sabah to them and Mindanao to the Philippines for the sake of a lasting peace in the Southern Philippines. Actually the reason why there has been Muslim rebellion in Mindanao is because Malaysia has been aiding our Muslim brothers, it is to their interest to keep the Philippines poor otherwise a strong and prosperous Philippine will take Sabah back from them. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

  • Lahi

    Even delusional china has been pursuing its historical(?), idiotic AND preposterous claim over the West Philippine Sea, how much more the descendants of the Sultan of Sulu who has the legitimate claim over Sabah. They possess all the proper documents to assert it in any international court, malaysia is just afraid to bring the matter to ICJ because they will surely lose. Mabuhay ang ating mga kapatid na Muslim sa tamang panahon ay makukuha din natin ang Sabah at pagbabayaran ng malaysia ang pagigi nilang traydor.

  • Psiitoon Charoenkrung

    The Philippine government should reinforce and help the beleagured and surrounded filipinos in Sabah.  If the Philippine governmnet forsake them,  then it should be ready to face the ire of all the muslim filipinos

    • Sepilok

      You do realise that if you sent your army into Sabah – that is a declaration of War. A war neither side really needs and a war which would cost the Philippines more than it would gain. You would be the bad guys in this and be the ones getting hit with sanctions (even the States would have to act)

  • Psiitoon Charoenkrung

    Time now for the MNLF and MILF to unite and help their brothers in Sabah.  Why fight for a small territory in Mindanao when they have all the big territory in Sabah.  Fight for your rights and help your surrounded brothers now

  • joboni96

    1. malaysia to increase to $10 million per year rent
    to be used both sides of the border

    2. bangsa moro to support the sultanate

    3. sovereignty issue to be set aside in the meantime
    in exchange for the commercial transaction in no. 1

    4. philippine government gives the sultanate
    power to negotiate but
    concurrence power is reserved

    5. money in no.1 will be used for development
    led and managed by the sultanate

    6. brunei as mediator

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos