MANILA, Philippines—Sulu’s royal army stays in Sabah.
And it stays there until Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III decrees that the army, led by his brother, pull out of the eastern Malaysian state.
So said Jamalul’s wife, Princess Fatima Cecilia Kiram on Friday.
The royal family also now wants to elevate the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim to Sabah to the United Nations and to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to finally settle the dispute, Fatima said at a press conference at the Blue Mosque in Maharlika Village in Taguig City.
For the first time since the standoff in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Sulu’s royal family led by Jamalul himself, his wife, and younger brother, Sultan Esmail, made a public appearance with a handful of followers to talk about the standoff and the Sabah claim as Malaysia’s Friday deadline for the sultan’s followers to leave Sabah expired.
While there was nothing royal at all in the rundown room with worn-out tables where the press conference was held, Jamalul Kiram and his family pressed for the ownership of Sabah by what their followers called “relying on a historical truth.”
Looking old and frail, Jamalul said he had a difficult time talking and thus designated his wife, who was seated to his left, to be his spokesperson.
Fatima said her husband’s “decree for his brother and his Rayak (royal decree) to go to Sabah and stay put peacefully” was a product of a consultation among his council, his army, and the family members.
She said she was confident that there would be no bloodshed in Lahad Datu, where over 300 members of the Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo led by the sultan’s brother, Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, were holed up.
“I am depending on our brotherhood… We are Muslim. They are Muslim. It is far beyond my imagination that there will be trouble,” Fatima said.
The royal family’s supporters also called for “restraint on both sides to deescalate the tension.”
The royal family, Fatima said, wants to negotiate and have a dialogue with Malaysia about Sabah.
Fatima confirmed reports that the royal family was hurt by the seeming dismissive attitude of President Aquino toward the Sabah claim when he said that it was a “dormant issue.”
Fatima said Mr. Aquino could have been given the wrong advice, the reason that the family welcomed the President’s announcement of a Cabinet study of the Sabah claim.
“We have the highest respect for the President and we honor his words… On behalf of the Sultanate of Sulu, we wish to thank President Aquino for looking into the problem… our claim of our ancestral domain, Sabah,” Fatima said, adding that the family wants to assist the government in doing the study.
“We want to help the government by sharing what (documents) we have so that they can study and support this claim for a win-win solution between our brother Muslims in Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu,” Fatima said.
She confirmed that Malacañang had sent emissaries to talk to their family about the presence of their followers in Sabah.
Fatima said those dispatched by the Palace to talk to them were government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, and two others.
But the royal family’s supporters are less convivial toward the President.
Reading from a statement, Abdurahman Amin, lead convenor of the Kiram family’s consultation with their followers, said the Muslim community all over the country was “deeply concerned and disturbed, particularly (with) the present dispensation’s innuendos… too proud of its so-called good governance policy but… remained complacent to the sentiments of the constituency as if they are not part of the Philippines.”
Amin lamented that President Aquino seemed to take the side of Malaysia.
“We have (an) unsolicited advice for them to look into the historical truth because it has irrefutable evidence in black and white that has a better chance of winning in the International Court of Justice or the United Nations organizations system, including its Security Council,” Amin said.
Fatima said the family would still have to consult with their followers regarding their next move. Fatima only smiled when asked when the family might reach a decision with the deadline given by Malaysia.