MANILA, Philippines—Is Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas the new spokesperson of the Malaysian government?
The titular head of the sultanate of Sulu raised this question, on Thursday, as he lashed out at Roxas for claiming that the Malaysian authorities would not enter into talks with the sultanate to end the standoff in Sabah.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said he was offended by the statements made by certain officials of the Aquino administration who, he said, had refused to meet with his family to find a peaceful end to the standoff between Malaysian forces and his armed followers who had been occupying a village in Sabah since Feb. 9.
“(To) Mar Roxas, is he now the spokesperson for Malaysia (by claiming) that Malaysia will not talk to us?” Kiram said in a statement read by his daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram.
“Is it hard for the Philippines and Malaysia to sit down and talk to us and settle this amicably? Why are we talking (only) to the media? Is it not easier for the two of us to talk officially? It seems that there is fear to talk to us officially. Why?” he lamented.
Kiram also assailed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for purportedly insulting members of the sultanate by insinuating that they can easily be persuaded.
He vowed to the Koran, the holy book of Islam, that nobody provided funds to his brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, and the 235-strong “royal forces” to sail to Lahad Datu town.
“I, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, pledge to our holy Quara’n that this aspiration to fight for what is rightfully ours, legally and historically, is a unilateral act of the sultanate of Sulu. This I pledge in the name of almighty Allah,” he said.
“Please do not insult the sacrifice of the sultanate of Sulu by saying ‘we can be swayed,’” the sultan told De Lima.
Kiram also called on President Aquino to “stop belittling” the territorial dispute over Sabah and for describing the decision of his armed followers to occupy a portion of the Malaysian state as a “foolhardy act.”
“Mr. President, the claim (over) Sabah is an important issue,” he argued.
“Why are you calling it foolhardy? Is it foolhardy to defend the patrimony of your nation? Is it foolhardy to fight for what is right? Is it foolhardy to sacrifice the lives of 235 people for the sake of the truth?” he said.
Kiram reiterated that his family’s decision to reclaim Sabah “did not cause any threat to the government.”
“That is why the sultanate initiated a unilateral action to go back home and reclaim what is rightfully ours so as not to prejudice the peace process that this government is pursuing,” he said, apparently referring to the peace agreement that the government recently signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with Malaysia standing as a peace facilitator.