MANILA, Philippines—Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Friday accused President Benigno Aquino III of helping the Malaysians instead of his fellow Filipinos who sailed to Sabah from Mindanao to stake a dormant territorial claim.
“They (Aquino administration) should be helping us, not sue us,” Kiram said at a press conference aired over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday warned Kiram he would face the “full force of the law” unless he withdrew his gunmen from Sabah.
Aquino also warned the sultan that he may have broken laws, including one banning citizens from inciting war that carries a maximum prison term of 12 years.
But Kiram said he was “just surprised,” adding, “Help us. Because as I see it, (Aquino) is helping not the Filipinos.”
He also said he prefers talking to the President “personally” instead “of an emissary who will relay a different version of what he wants to tell the President.”
Shooting erupted Friday in Lahad Datu village that has been occupied by nearly 200 followers and family members of Kiram for three weeks.
The conflict elevated the Sabah territorial issue, which has been a thorn in Philippine-Malaysian relations for decades, to a Philippine national security concern. The crisis erupted at a crucial stage of peace negotiations — brokered by Malaysia — between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in Mindanao.
Aquino has said that the standoff may have been an attempt to undermine his government on the part of those opposing the peace deal, including politicians and warlords who fear being left out in any power sharing arrangements.
The Philippines this week sent a navy ship with social and medical workers off Lahad Datu while trying to persuade the Filipinos to return home. With reports from Ruel Perez, Radyo Inquirer 990AM and Associated Press