Malaysia mulls charging Filipino gunmen in Sabah
MANILA, Philippines – A Malaysian government official said that members of the Sulu “royal army” could be criminally charged for the death of Malaysian security forces during skirmishes in Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, minister of law and parliamentary affairs under the prime minister’s department, said that the estimated 200 supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu that invaded Tanduao village in Lahad Datu can be brought to court for violating Malaysian laws.
“If they have broken the laws of Malaysia, they can be charged in court,” Aziz was quoted as saying by Malaysia’s The Star news website after he opened a dialogue on establishing a sentencing council in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.
Nazri said that it would be up to the public prosecutor to decide whether to file charges and study what cases can be brought against the armed group.
He added that since the incident was “an intrusion on the country’s sovereignty [and] not a war” the matter would best be handled by police.
The Department of Justice previously stated that they are also preparing the filing of charges against Kiram’s group. Among the possible cases they could face are inciting to war, illegal possession of firearms, illegal assembly and violation of the Commission on Elections gun ban.
The DFA said in a statement Wednesday that in if members of the group are criminally charged by Malaysia, the Philippine government will provide them legal assistance.
“Consistent with the President’s policy of caring for the Filipino people wherever they are, the Philippine Government will provide the necessary assistance,” the DFA said.
Had the group withdrawn peacefully before violence erupted, no charges would have been filed by both the Malaysian and Philippine governments.
“With the peaceful withdrawal, the President initially offered that no charges would be filed and that an avenue for discussion would be made available,” DFA said.
“Until hostilities erupted, Malaysia agreed on a peaceful withdrawal where no charges would be filed,” the DFA said.
Eight Malaysian policemen have been killed so far from two skirmishes with the Sulu “Royal army” that has been encamped in Tanduao village since February 9 allegedly to reclaim their rightful territory.
At least 14 supporters of the Sultanate have been reported killed in action from the skirmishes.
The Malaysian government had repeatedly asked to group, led by Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, to leave Sabah, but the group continues to assert their claim which they said had historical and legal basis.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.