MANILA, Philippines – The brother of the sultan of Sulu said his group in Lahad Datu town in Sabah was open to negotiate with the Malaysian government just to have a “peaceful” solution to the Sabah standoff.
“Yes. Talagang peaceful negotiation ang kailangan…so long as our rights will not be taken away from us. Negotiation talaga ng gusto namin,” Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram told Radyo Inquirer 990AM on Wednesday when asked if they were open to negotiations.
“Kailangan namin ng ganun, peaceful. We have to renegotiate in a peaceful way,” said Raja Muda, brother of Jamalul Kiram III.
Raja Muda said the standoff could be resolved peacefully “so long as there is no betrayal, so long as they are sincere with the negotiation.”
His statements came just a day after Sultan Jamalul rejected President Benigno Aquino III’s call to withdraw the armed group in the disputed land or “face the full force of the law.”
Raja Muda said they were ready to listen to the President and accept his views if they think these were right.
Unfortunately, the sultan’s brother did not agree with the President’s claim that they may have violated Philippine laws when they refused to leave the land.
“As President and chief executor of our laws, I have tasked an investigation into possible violations of laws by you, your followers, and collaborators engaged in this foolhardy act,” Aquino said Tuesday.
Reacting to this, Raja Muda said: “E papaano papa-arrest? Ano ang crime na na-commit namin? Sa aming paniwala, wala kaminng crime committed against the Philippine government. We are just doing what we believe is right …”
“We believe [we have not done anything wrong]. We believe, ang ginagawa namin is really right. I think there is no such law against fighting for what is right,” he further said.
Raja Muda insisted that they would not leave Sabah until the issue has been resolved.
And if the Malaysian authorities were to use force to disarm his men, Raja Muda said they have no other choice but defend themselves.
“Kapag sila pumasok sa amin, there’s no other way except to defend ourselves,” he said.
“Hindi nila magagawa yun…Kung magdi-disarm sila, that will be I think the time na lalaban kami,” he added.
Raja Muda said they came to Sabah not to make war especially with fellow Muslims in Malaysia.
“We come here…not to make war against them especially since we belong to the same religion,’ he said when asked what would be his message to the Malaysian government.
And to the residents of Sabah, Raja Muda’s message was: “ We did not come here to die here but we come here to live with them, to stay with them to love each other and enjoy the income of Sabah together.”
He then called on their families in the Philippines and all Filipinos not only to extend them any help but also to show “sympathy” for them.
“The Filipinos must also at least sympathize on our move because we are doing not only for us…This is also for all Filipinos, Christians and Muslims,” Raja Muda added.
Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, in a press conference Wednesday, said the standoff has risked the lives and jobs of some 800,000 Filipinos staying there.
“Nagsalita na ang ating Pangulo ano at talagang nangingibabaw sa priority kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan doon, more or less 180 ang ating mga kababayan doon na nasa peligro at ito yung nasa isip ng pangulo ano kaya nanawagan sya na pauwiin na sila ni Sultan Jamalul. Dagdag pa doon more or less 800,000 ang mga kababayan natin ang naghahanap buhay sa Sabah at saka sa Malaysia,” he told reporters.
Roxas said it was important that Malaysia and Philippines to continue good relations.
“Napakahalaga na manatiling maayos ang relasyon ng Pilipinas at saka ng Malaysia dahil ito hanapbuhay na ito ay malalagay sa alanganin. Madadamay sila, mga inosente sila. So eto yung nangingibabaw sa pag iisip ng ating pangulo. Unang una yung kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan at yung pagpapatuloy ng paghahanapbuhay ng ating mga kapwa pilipino doon sa Sabah. Hindi ito ayon nga sa kanya hindi ito ang tamang paraan para tugunan itong claim ng pamilya kirma at meron namang ibang fora para dyan. Sa ngayon ang mahalaga ay yung ligtas at mapayapang paglutas nitong sitwasyon na ito,” he said.
President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday called on Sultan Jamalul to end the standoff in Lahud town in Sabah and leave peacefully but this was rejected.