In February, a group composed of civilians and members of what was called “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” landed in Tanduo village in Lahad Datu town, Sabah. The leader of the group was Agbimuddin Kiram, younger brother of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram.
Agbimuddin described his group’s action as “not an act of aggression but a journey back home.”
The Kirams are among the descendants and heirs of the sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, and they are asserting their historical claim to Sabah.
The heirs say Sabah was ceded in 1704 to the sultan of Sulu by the sultan of Brunei, who was grateful to the sultan of Sulu for helping quell a rebellion against him.
Every year, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a check in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (about P72,000) to the legal counsel of the heirs. Malaysia considers the amount “cession” payment for Sabah, while the heirs consider it “rent.”
According to Abraham Julpa Idjirani, secretary general and spokesman for the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, the direct descendants and heirs of the sultan of Sulu and North Borneo are Sultan Jamalul, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram III, Datu Alianapia Kiram, Datu Phugdal Kiram, Datu Baduruddin Kiram and Agbimuddin, crown prince and official administrator of Sabah.
Agbimuddin’s intrusion led to a two-week standoff with Malaysian police and military troops that erupted in violence on March 1. More than 60 members of Agbimuddin’s group were killed in the fighting, which also spilled over to other villages as Malaysian forces tried to flush out the intruders. At least eight Malaysian police officers and two soldiers were also killed.
According to reports, Agbimuddin has not been heard from since the fighting ended in early April.
As of April, more than 180 people have been detained in connection with the incursion led by Agbimuddin, while more than 350 have been arrested for other acts related to the incident.
Thousands of Filipinos living and working in Sabah fled the state during the fighting and returned to southern Philippines.
Earlier this month, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima denied that the government was planning to hand over Jamalul and his followers to Malaysia, contrary to reports that the Kirams were claiming that Malacañang had plans to hand them over to Malaysia to face charges there for their incursion into Sabah.—Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives