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Sabah issue dead, says Malaysian exec

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:28:00 12/15/2008

Filed Under: Diplomacy, Government

MANILA, Philippines?In a rare policy statement on the Philippines? long-standing but dormant claim on Sabah, Malaysia?s top foreign official said that as far as he was concerned, there was no need for further negotiations.

?I think the question of negotiation should not arise as we resolved this matter in 1963 when Malaysia was formed,? Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri was quoted as saying by the pro-government daily, The Star, on Friday.

Rahim, however, conceded there were mechanisms to amicably settle disputes such as the Sabah claim within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), of which both the Philippines and Malaysia are members.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment on Rahim?s statement, which was also posted on The Star?s website (thestar.com.my).

Part of Sulu

Sabah is currently counted among the 13 states of Malaysia. The Philippines has a claim to the territory based on the contention that it was once part of the Sultanate of Sulu and had been merely leased to Sabah?s former colonizer, Great Britain, in 1878.

According to the article, Rahim was interviewed in Sabah?s capital, Kota Kinabulu, during the launch of the foreign ministry?s nationwide ?Information Dissemination and Public Diplomacy? program there.

Rahim was asked to comment on calls by a local political group, Parti Bersatu Sabah (Sabah United Party), to include state leaders in a negotiating team to get Manila to drop the claim ?once and for all.?

Rahim said the Philippine claim was based on a ?civil agreement? that was ?superseded? by the desire of the people of Sabah to join the Malaysian federation. Malaysia was formed by the union in 1963 of the Federation of Malaya and the then British crown colonies of North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak.

The official was apparently referring to the lease agreement between Britain and the Sultanate of Sulu, in accordance with which the heirs of the last sultan continue to received ?cession,? ?rent? payment, now about 5,300 Malaysian ringgit (P77,000) a year.

Rahim said that in 1963, the Cobbold Commission, formed by the British and Malayan governments, determined that about two-thirds of Sabah residents wanted to join Malaysia. A United Nations mission sent to Borneo held a poll and made a similar finding. The Federation of Malaysia was established soon after.

Feud between heirs

The Philippine government, then under President Diosdado Macapagal, questioned the inclusion of Sabah in the new federation.

The issue has continually been a sore point in Philippine-Malaysian relations.

The Philippine government?s claim has been complicated by feud between the Sabah heirs. There are at least three claimants to the sultan?s throne.

In 2002, President Macapagal-Arroyo met with one faction of the feuding heirs and instructed the DFA to help them establish their ?proprietary rights? over Sabah.

In the 1960s, President Ferdinand Marcos created a military face composed of Muslim youths to forcibly take the island. The invasion did not go through after the Muslims were killed by their own commanders after the young men discovered the true objective of their training.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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