What incursion? It’s an excursion.
Playing down accusations that their family intruded into the Malaysian territory of Sabah, the wife of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III yesterday said their armed followers who occupied a village there were just “having a picnic.”
“What they did is a benevolent action … It’s actually like what happened during the Edsa [People Power Revolution in 1986],” Princess Fatima Cecilia Kiram said.
She also strongly denied President Aquino’s allegation that somebody was financing the members of the “royal forces” of the sultanate of Sulu who sailed to Sabah on Feb. 9 and had since been holed up in the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu town.
“This is not rebellion. I actually refer to it as an excursion. Our people there were just having a picnic,” a smiling Fatima told reporters in a news briefing at the Kirams’ home in Taguig City.
Turning serious, she said the Kirams and their followers “have had enough” of the Philippine government’s indifference to their plight and their decades-old struggle to assert the sultanate’s ownership of Sabah.
“We have not been remiss. We have repeatedly told the government that, ‘Hey, here we are. Can we do something (to) help you?’ What we need now is a written agreement. We will not entertain any verbal agreement,” she said.
Fatima also clarified that their followers did not go to Sabah on orders of her husband. She said the 235-strong group led by her husband’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, went to Sabah “on their own free will.”
In fact, she said it was Agbimuddin who convinced his older brother to allow the group to travel to Sabah and “settle down in their homeland.”
“We did not tell our people to start a fight and resort to violence. Our people went there voluntarily. It was their own free will,” Fatima said.
Fatima dismissed as speculation the President’s claim that Agbimuddin’s group may had received funding, saying it could be part of a “ploy, a desperate move of the government.”
She said the sultanate’s followers went to Sabah using “money from their own pockets.” She said the group raised less than P100,000 to buy gasoline for the motorboats they used to travel to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi.
Before the Malaysian authorities ordered a food blockade, she said, the residents of Tanduao provided food to Agbimuddin’s group since most of them were relatives of the Kirams.
Not about money
“These speculations are part of their desperate move. They thought our people will not move without a financer. If we have a financer, we could have had more than 250 people going there. Our people may have had more than 30 firearms. In that case, what we will see is an invasion,” she said.
Although she admitted that the family was facing financial woes, Fatima maintained that the Kirams’ fight to take back Sabah was not about money.
“They say this is about our financial difficulties. We are not denying that we are facing financial problems. We may belong to the 70 percent of Filipinos living in poverty, but we survive because of the will of Allah,” she said, choking back tears.
“But there are more of us aspiring for a better life … This fight is a fight to regain our dignity, pride and honor. This involves the patrimony of the Filipino people.”
First posted 8:53 pm | Wednesday, February 27th, 2013