DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram said on Monday he was not informed that a Philippine Navy was on its way to Sabah to fetch his followers in that country.
“Alam ko may barko. Pero sinabihan nila ako na may umalis na humanitarian boat nung nakaalis na ang barko. Ano ba yan (I know that there was a ship that left. But they told me about the humanitarian boat after it has sailed. What is this)?” Kiram told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
But Kiram said the ship would not be sailing back to the Philippines with its intended passengers. “Hindi sila sasakay sa barko dahil hindi sila aalis sa sarili nilang lupa (They will not board the ship because they will not leave their own land),” Kiram said of his followers.
The Navy ship reportedly sailed off to Sabah on Sunday for a weeklong humanitarian mission to bring home Kiram’s followers in Lahad Datu.
Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said the ship carried with it an inter-agency team consisting of members from the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Foreign Affairs and Health.
Hataman said a team representing the ARMM also went to Sabah.
Ulka Ulama, legal counsel for the heirs of Sultan Kiram, said the only way to solve the standoff would be to create a council to be called the Bilateral Executive Legislative Agreement on Sabah Affairs (BELAS) that has been “agreed (on) and reached during a Manila Accord of 1963 between President Diosdado Macapagal and Sukarno.”
“They should negotiate first, then make this agreement. It can easily be solved by upholding the past accords,” Ulama said.
Ulama also lashed at President Aquino for having what he called “a cold, hard heart.”
“The president is so cold on this issue, cold on the plight of people that are real owners of Sabah, the Filipino people. It is about time for him to shine and to show to the whole world that he is indeed a champion of human rights,” Ulama said.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, said they would bring their concerns to US President Barack Obama to pressure Kuala Lumpur to give in to their demand.
Idjirani cited a 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement where the US government “assured the Sultan of Sulu of all nations’ full protection should a problem arise in Sabah between the Sultan of Sulu and other foreign countries.”
“That’s the US historical obligation to us,” Idjirani said by phone.
Idjirani also said Kiram III has not changed his directive to followers and that they would stay in the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu town.
“The message is clear–to live there in peace and to point their weapons to the ground,” Idjirani said.