MANILA, Philippines—Only the intervention of the United Nations or another country could end the conflict in Sabah, the wife of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III said Monday.
At least 26 people have been reported killed in skirmishes in Sabah since Friday between the so-called “royal army” of the Sulu sultanate and Malaysian security forces.
“The only thing that could end the conflict is an intervention of the United Nations or a third country… This is honor above life. They (Malacañang officials) are saying life is more important. But for us Tausugs, honor is more important than life,” said Princess Fatima Kiram, the sultan’s wife.
The conflict began more than three weeks ago after the sultan’s followers, led by his brother Raja Muda Agmibuddin Kiram, arrived in Lahad Datu, purportedly to renew their family’s claim over Sabah.
Kiram and his followers said they base their claim on “historical truth,” amplified by the fact that the Malaysian government continues to pay their family rental fee as a result of a lease agreement between their forebear and a British company in the 1800s.
On Monday, Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesperson of the Sulu sultanate said Malaysia only had an “administering authority and not a sovereign authority” over Sabah.
Idjirani also said that their followers in Sabah “are advancing.”
“This is do or die for us,” Fatima told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
She said the relatives of the Sultan’s followers, who are now engaged in fighting in Lahad Datu, now want to sail to Sabah and reinforce the “royal army.”
Fatima said the sultan could no longer appease their followers. “They are going (to Sabah) on their own,” she said.
She said that according to reports reaching them from Semporna town, 300 kilometers from Tanduao village in Lahad Datu, the Malaysian police have allegedly been rounding up and “shooting men without documents.”
“This has been going on since yesterday (Sunday),” she said, adding that the mass deportation of Filipinos from Sabah was also a cause for concern.
She said the supposed human rights violations by the Malaysians should be brought to the attention of the international community and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Idjirani sad he had spoken to Agmibuddin at noon Monday.
“We are well and alive,” Idjirani quoted Agmibuddin as telling him. Idrijani also said that according Agmibuddin, he and their men have finally eaten a breakfast of hot soup.
Idjirani added that Agmibuddin also told him that they finally have taken a bath.
Fatima reiterated that since Agmibuddin and their followers arrived in Lahad Datu, their family had always been open to negotiate with Malaysia.
“But the problem is … Malaysia [is] not on our side. We want to negotiate and talk with them but they are firm in their decision (not to negotiate),” she said.
Unfortunately, she said, Philippine leaders appear to be echoing what Malaysia wants.
She noted that the Philippine government wants the sultan’s followers to return to the Philippines first before talks could commence. “But where would our leverage be if we do that? Will they still listen to us if we go back? Where is the assurance that no one will be jailed, or that if we sit down the Malaysians will listen to us,” she said.
“They [think] we are stupid to return if they (ask) us to. They said we are foolhardy but we are doing this for the people. We are foolhardy to pursue a benevolent aspiration,” Fatima said.
“Maybe they don’t have honor, just pride,” she said, apparently referring to the leaders who their clan feels have refused to listen to them.