LAHAD DATU, Sabah—A Sulu sultan has been called in to resolve a standoff between Malaysian security forces and a group of Filipino armed claiming to be members of the “royal army” of the Sultanate of Sulu.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, a descendant of the Sultanate of Sulu and a relative of the armed group leader, is expected to help find a peaceful solution to the standoff that entered its fifth day Saturday.
The leader of the armed group has been identified as Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, who had been negotiating with the Malaysian emissaries since Tuesday.
Azzimudie, who was dressed in white robes, was said to have been an assistant district officer of Kudat during the time of former chief minister Tun Datu Mustapha Harun between 1967 and 1976.
Azzimudie also met another relative of the Sulu Sultan, who was brought in from Kuala Lumpur.
He has yet to respond to requests by emissaries to “go home”.
The emissaries are hoping for the group to give up their demands for their ancestral land of the Sulu Sultanate. Sultan Jamalul is expected to come by boat from the southern Philippines.
Azzimudie, who spoke to the emissaries in English, showed them documents of the ancestral claim to Sabah.
He was staying in a house of a man in his 60s called “Pakcik Umrah” (Uncle Umrah).
Umrah and his wife is the only local family remaining in Kampung Tanduo, while the other families from 15 houses have moved in with relatives in Tanjung Labian, about 30 kilometers away.
The number of armed men has increased from 30 from Saturday to about 300 as of this writing.
The group is comprised of Tausugs and Bajaus from Basilan, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi, and arrived on board several boats since Saturday.
Most of them, aged from 20 to 60, were in dressed in black and grey military fatigues and armed with M16 rifles, M14 grenade launchers and Colt 45 pistols.
At least six camps have been set up there.
A villager, who returned to check on his house, said the Filipinos did not enter the vacant houses and were living off whatever that was grown in the village.
Malaysian security forces have locked down all routes in the Felda Sahabat 17 oil palm plantation leading to Kampung Tanduo.
Only food and water were allowed to be brought in as negotiations were going on.
Patrol boats from the security agencies have blocked off entry from the southern Philippines, whose closest islands are Sipangkut and Sibutu, which can be reached by boat within 15 minutes.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said police have contingency plans in the event the talks broke down.
“We are optimistic that the situation will be resolved very soon with the group returning to their home country,” he said Friday.
Hamza said Malaysian authorities were also in contact with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario.