Sultanate to invoke 1915 pact with US


Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Sultanate of Sulu is considering seeking the intercession of the US government in pressing its claim to Sabah by invoking a 1915 agreement with the US colonial government in the Philippines.

Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson for the sultan of Sulu, said the sultanate was considering invoking the Kiram-Carpenter Agreement of March 22, 1915.

Under that agreement, signed by US-appointed Governor of Mindanao and Sulu Frank W. Carpenter with the sultan of Sulu relinquished the sultan’s and his heirs’ right to temporal sovereignty, tax collection and arbitration laws.

In exchange, the sultan got an allowance, a piece of land and recognition as religious leader.

The agreement did not cover the territory of North Borneo, which the sultanate had leased to the British North Borneo Company.

Moral obligation

Idjirani said that under the agreement, the United States also agreed to give “full protection to the sultan of Sulu should the question of Sabah arise in the future between the sultanate and any foreign authority.”

“We will remind them of their moral obligation. That obligation is not to use violent means but to help find a solution,” Idjirani said.

Princess Jacel Kiram, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s daughter, said the ball was now in the court of the Philippine and Malaysian governments.

“We are saddened and dismayed by the treatment of the government of this issue. We are trying our best to understand why we are treated this way, because it’s unacceptable,” she said.

Holding their ground

“We offer the 10 lives that were lost to our dear President and to Secretary Mar Roxas. I hope they do not wait for more people to be killed before they wake up and address the situation properly,” she added, referring to the followers of the sultan who were killed in a clash with Malaysian police in Tanduao village in Lahad Datu town, Sabah, on Friday.

By midnight Friday after hours of discussion, Jamalul decided that his brother Agbimuddin and his remaining 224 followers would hold their ground in Sabah.

“The Sultan came to a decision at midnight, weighing the lives of (224) and his brother and the aspiration that the ancestral land be recognized by Malaysia. The decision is to stay put,” Idjirani said on Saturday morning.

Open to talks

“This is not being stubborn. The sultan is open to talks,” he said, reiterating that only the sultanate could talk about disengagement with the Malaysian Embassy.

Idjirani said Malacañang’s “small window of opportunity” to end the standoff was not acceptable because all the government wanted was Agbimuddin’s group pullout from Sabah, without assurance of negotiations involving the sultanate’s claim to Sabah.

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  • watski2000

    Memorandum Agreement between the Governor-General of the Philippine Islands and the Sultan of Sulu.

    Being the complete renunciation by the latter of his pretensions of sovereignty and a definition of his status.

    Zamboanga, March 22, 1915.

    NOTE: Prior to American occupation the Sultanate of Sulu had been for more than three hundred years an independent sovereignty; during the latter portion of the Spanish regime the Sultanate had partially relinquished the exercise of that sovereignty as to foreign relations and to a lesser degree as concerned the port of Job and the four other points occupied by Spanish military garrisons; a temporal sovereignty, partial but nevertheless de facto, existed and was recognized by the “Bates Treaty” in the term “the government of the Sultan” to whom the American authorities were by that agreement required to turn over for trial cases “where crimes and offenses are committed by Moros against Moros” (Article IX). The abrogation of the Bates Treaty was premised upon other matters than the de jure sovereignty of the Sultan who subsequently neither by conquest nor otherwise lost or relinquished his claims to sovereignty so far as concerned internal affairs of government of the Sulu Archipelago until he signed this Agreement of March 22, 1916 (sic’ 1915) at Zamboanga.

    (On the original copy the above title and note are in the handwriting of Governor Carpenter, See photographs.—H.O.B).


    23In this Agreement the Sultan of Sulu relinquished his temporal sovereignty “in American territory and dependencies.” On the other hand, the American Government reconized that “the Sultan of Sulu is titular spiritual head of the Mohammedan Church in the Sulu Archipelago with all the Mohammedan rights and privileges winch under the government of the United States of America may be exercised by such an ecclesiastical authority.” But it was made “clearly of official record the fact that the termination of the temporal sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu within American territory is understood to be wholly without prejudice or effect as to the temporal sovereignty and ecclesiastical authority of the Sulatanate beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the United States Government especially with reference to that portion of the Island of Borneo which as a dependency of the Sulatanate of Sulu is understood to be held under lease by the chartered company which is known as the ‘British North Borneo Government’.” (Letter of Governor Carpenter to the Director of Non-Christian Tribes, dated May 4, 1920.) The “Governor-General of the Philippine Islands” referred to in the title and body of the Agreement—American Governor General Francis B. Harrison—made even more explicit that the agreement “did not interfere with the Sultan’s status of sovereignty over British North Borneo lands.”.

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