MANILA, Philippines—The next in line to the title of Sultan of Sulu, Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, said Saturday he and the remaining 224 followers in Sabah were ready to face death after Malaysian police forces attacked and killed 10 of them and wounded four others on Friday.
Kiram, who along with his followers have been surrounded and isolated by Malaysian police forces in Tanduo, Lahad Datu for the past 16 days, texted a grim message to his elder brother, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, at 5 a.m. Saturday.
“After we buried our 9 brothers and sister at sundown, everyone of the 224 left decided to die in Lahad Datu in pursuit of their dreams and aspiration,” Agbimuddin Kiram Kiram said in the message.
A spokesman for the Jamalul Kiram, Abraham Idjirani, said the younger Kiram wanted the message known to all Filipinos.
“As we make this announcement in this moment of history, we are carrying a heavy heart,” Idjirani told scores of journalists who have converged at the sultan’s residence in Taguig City the past few days.
“The Sultanate of Sulu in full council and family decided to put into the hands of Allah the date of our brothers. Let the blood of 10 martyrs charter the course of the new history of the Sultanate of Sulu,” Idjirani said.
Idjirani said Agbimuddin Kiram led 234 of their followers, of whom only about 30 were armed, to Sabah last February 9 to assert their claim to Sabah, which was leased by the Sultanate of Sulu to a British company in 1878.
Britain incorporated Sabah into the federation of Malaysia when it granted the new state independence in 1963, but Malaysia continues to pay 5,300 ringgit (equivalent to P73,000) to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu up to the present. Malaysia calls the payment cession money but the Kirams say it is rent.
“This is our long-held aspiration, that Malaysia understand that Sabah is owned by the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultan of Sulu,” Idjirani said.
“The Sultan is not after an increase in rental because that will only benefit the Kiram family. But their father said Sabah is not for sale. It’s for the patrimony of the Filipino people,” he added.
Quoting Agbimuddin Kiram, Idjirani reported that 10 of their followers were captured by Malaysian police forces during Friday’s clash, in which two Malaysians were reported killed.
Idjirani said the large number of casualties on their part along with the capture of 10 others showed that Agbimuddin Kiram and his followers were taken by surprise by the Malaysian attack.
“That will disprove that we fired the first shot, because they were caught by surprise. That will disprove the statement of the Malaysian ambassador,” Idjirani said.
He said they assume that the 10 captured followers, all men, were being maltreated in police custody and appealed to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to intercede.
Of the 214 who remain with Agbimuddin Kiram, seven are women, Idjirani said.
Idjirani said most of their followers were armed only with kris and barong (bladed weapons).