MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines has asked the Malaysian government to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with members of the Sultanate of Sulu’s “Royal Army” that figured in a weeks-long standoff in Sabah that turned violent last week.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters Monday that Secretary Albert Del Rosario had met anew with Malaysian Ambassador Mohammad Zamri bin Mohammad Kassim and had handed over a note verbale.
“The note verbale states that the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia both value the lives of their citizens and share the same objective of preventing further loss of lives and further bloodshed,” Hernandez said
“In this light the Philippine government has called on the forces of the royal sultanate of Sulu led by Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram to surrender peacefully,” he added.
More than 200 supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III have been encamped in Lahad Datu, Sabah since February 11 led by the Sultan’s brother Agbimuddin.
Violence erupted Friday morning in Lahad Datu between Malaysian authorities and the sultan’s supporters leaving 12 from Kiram’s group and two policemen dead.
Another firefight ensued Saturday in Semporna town, 300 kilometers away from Lahad Datu, leaving five Malaysian policemen and two of the Sultan’s supporters dead. Four local government officials were reportedly being held hostage by the separate group led by Alianapia Kiram that attacked the town in retaliation.
Hernandez said Del Rosario was set to fly to Kuala Lumpur Monday afternoon to personally hand over the requests of the Philippine government to his counterpart in Malaysia, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.
Hernandez said that Del Rosario and Aman would “continue discussions on how to avert further loss of lives.”
The Philippines was requesting clearance to allow a Philippine Navy ship to dock and bring humanitarian and consular aid to Filipinos.
The navy ship will also “ferry them and the remaining members of the group back to their respective homes and families,” Hernandez said.
He also reiterated the Philippines’ request for a full briefing on the operations carried out by Malaysian authorities against Kiram’s group.
“The DFA appeals that these requests be granted as soon as possible and these be conveyed immediately to the relevant authorities,” Hernandez said.