KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia?(UPDATE) The nine heirs to the Sulu Sultanate have reversed themselves and are now dropping their claim on Sabah, according to a Malaysian newspaper.
But the report has been dismissed as untrue by both Sultan Ismael Kiram II and Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and a lawyer representing the heirs and administrators of the former Sultanate of Sulu.
Malaysia?s The Star said individuals claiming to represent the royal family said they were now willing to surrender their rights to the Malaysian state.
The nine heirs of the sultanate have been receiving a total annual ?cession payment? of RM5,300 (P74,200) from the Malaysian government since before its independence.
Datu Omar Ali Datu Backtiyal told a local newspaper here that he had obtained the signatures of the nine heirs of the late Sultan Mohamat Jamal Al Alam agreeing to relinquish their claim last year.
He was now waiting for the Malaysian government?s response.
But in Zamboanga City, Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of Sultan Kiram II and Agbimuddin Kiram, who are at present in Malaysia, called the Philippine Daily Inquirer to say that the report was erroneous.
Idjirani said Agbimuddin Kiram was the official administrator of Sabah, appointed by his father Sultan Punjungan Kiram who in turn was appointed administrator of North Borneo by the Sessions Court of North Borneo under Justice Macaskie in 1939.
?What is being reported that 9 principal heirs dropped the Sabah claim is not true, I hope the Inquirer will help us strengthen the facts,? Idjirani, also the secretary general of the Sultanate of Sulu, said.
The issue on dropping Sabah claim requires lengthy discussion involving not just the Sulu Sultanate but the United Nations as well, according to Idjirani.
?There are many important issues to be discussed before dropping the Sabah claim and one important issue is the condition and situations surrounding the descendants? welfare. It is an established fact that Sabah issue is waiting for the pending resolution at the United Nations,? Idjirani said.
In Jolo, Sulu, a lawyer representing the heirs and administrators of the former Sultanate of Sulu on Thursday branded as lies reports that the Sabah claim had been dropped.
Lawyer Ulka Ulama told the Inquirer by phone that ?nobody has the power to drop the claim up to now.?
?We do not have a sultan anymore, who has territory and government. The last sultanate existed only up to 1936,? he said.
Ulama said the claim of Datu Omar about securing the signatures of the nine heirs to the sultanate was not true either.
?It will never happen. I have been a lawyer for the heirs of the sultanate and those recognized administrators of the sultanate for 40 years now,? he said.
Ulama said it would be impossible for Datu Omar to secure the signatures of the heirs because they had already died.
?Those must be fake heirs. Only the administrators are living now,? he said.
Among the recognized administrators, he said, is Datu Esmail Kiram of the Mora Napsa heir.
Datu Omar said in the newspaper report that the nine heirs were among those named in a 1930s civil suit (Dayang Hadji Piandao Kiram of Jolo, Philippines and Eight Others vs. the Government of North Borneo) presided by the then Chief Justice of North Borneo CFC Macaskie.
Datu Omar, a Malaysian, said he took the initiative in his effort to find a resolution to the sovereignty issue, adding that there were questions over why Malaysia was still making payments to the heirs of the sultanate.
Meanwhile, a representative of Rodinood Julaspi Kiram II, who claims to be the closest heir to the Sulu sultanate, said Rodinood was also dropping the claim to Sabah. Four years ago at his ?crowning? as the Sultan of Sulu, Rodinood had demanded $20 billion as compensation from the Malaysian government in return for him dropping the sultanate?s claim on Sabah.
In a statement, Rodinood?s ?executive secretary and Keeper of the Royal Seal? Dato Seri Putra Eddy T. Sulaiman was quoted as saying that Rodinood had decided to drop the Sabah claim after considering ?various implications.?
?What is important now is the establishment of good relations between the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia for their mutual benefit.
?I feel the Philippine government should also drop its longstanding claim on Sabah,? Eddy said.
Reacting to this report, Ulama said Rodinood was one of those considered ?fake.?
?He said he descended from Sultan Jamalul Kiram II who has no known heir so he is not real also,? Ulama said.
Ulama vowed to come out with an official statement in the next few days to dispute the Backtiyal claim and that of Rodinood.Ruben Sario, The Star-Asia News Network and Julie S. Alipala and Ed General, Inquirer Mindanao