05:30 AM July 31, 2020

1640 – Spain, under a treaty entered into with the sultans of Sulu and Maguindanao, recognizes the independence of the two sultanates.

1704 – Sabah (formerly North Borneo), which used to be ruled by the sultan of Brunei, is ceded to the sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Ahlam, in gratitude to the latter’s role in suppressing a revolt against the sultan of Brunei.

1878 – The Sulu sultan then leases Sabah to the British North Borneo Co., represented by Englishman Alfred Dent and German Gustavus Baron de Overbeck in a deed of pajak (“lease”) in which the company would pay 5,300 Mexican gold pieces a year to the Kingdom of Sulu.


1936 – The payment stops when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II died. Sultan Punjungan Kiram, crown prince of the sultanate at the time of Jamalul II’s death, goes to the British consulate in Manila to demand the resumption of payments. After Jamalul II’s death, the British consul in Manila recommends the suspension of payments because President Manuel L. Quezon did not recognize Jamalul II’s successor.


1939 – The high court of North Borneo issues a decision naming the nine principal heirs of the last sultan of Sulu, whose descendants had been pressing their claim to Sabah. After the court decision, the British North Borneo Co. complies for several years.

1962 – The Philippines stakes its claim to Sabah after the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo gave the government, then headed by President Diosdado Macapagal, legal authority to negotiate on their behalf. Macapagal files with the United Kingdom the Philippine claim of sovereignty, jurisdiction and ownership of North Borneo.

1963 – Sabah is annexed to Malaysia when it declares independence from the United Kingdom. British North Borneo Co. stops paying when its rights to Sabah is transferred to the newly established Federation of Malaysia. The new government assumes the payment but in ringgit.

1968 – President Ferdinand Marcos recruits Filipino Muslims for a covert force to seize Sabah from Malaysia. But when the recruits complain, at least 23 of them are killed in what would be referred to as the Jabidah massacre. The incident helps radicalize Filipino Muslims.

1999 – Princess Denchurain Kiram, daughter of Princess Tarhata, writes Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad through former President Joseph Estrada to request for an increase in the annual rental. She dies in September the next year without receiving a reply.

2003 – The heirs send President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo another letter asking for help in requesting the Malaysian government to increase the rent.


2008 – Reports say that Jamalul II’s heirs had “dropped” their Sabah claim, which the heirs dismiss as untrue. In the reports, Malaysian Datu Omar Ali Datu Backtiyal told a local newspaper in Malaysia that he had obtained the signatures of the nine heirs for the relinquishment of their claim to Sabah. The heirs dismiss the reports as “lies.”

2013 – Followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III go to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi and occupy a village in Lahad Datu town to assert the clan’s ancestral claim on Sabah. This leads to a standoff with Malaysian security forces, ending in the deaths of 56 militants and 10 Malaysian security forces. —ANA ROA, Inquirer Research

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TAGS: Malaysia, Philippines, Sabah, Sabah claim

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