Gov’t-Sulu sultan talks seen as positive step to resolving Sabah crisis
MANILA, Philippines – The first official meeting between representatives of the government and the Sultanate of Sulu on the deadly Sabah crisis is an indication of a positive development, Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the Sultanate of Sulu, said Tuesday.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, held a closed door meeting in Camp Crame, Quezon City last Monday.
“Yun ay senyales ng pwedeng magandang development sa pangyayari… at magkakaroon [tayo] ng briefing sa ating mahal na Sultan,” Idjirani said.
(The meeting is seen as a positive step and the Sultan will be briefed about this.)
Roxas said the meeting was a continuation of the preliminary “exploratory talks” held in Zamboanga last week.
Idjirani said Bantilan Esmail is set to visit his brother’s home in Taguig City Tuesday to brief him on the issues discussed during the meeting with Roxas.
Esmail Kiram had said that he told Roxas that Malaysia needed to agree to a cease-fire to allow talks aimed at resolving the weekslong Sabah standoff that has sparked the worst security crisis in years for the neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
He and Roxas declined to provide other details of their closed-door discussion, which included other members of Kiram’s clan from the southern Philippines.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak rejected an earlier call for a cease-fire and demanded Kiram’s younger brother, Agbimuddin, who led the invasion into Sabah last month, to lay down his arms unconditionally and surrender to his men. The Aquino administration also called on him to give up.
Agbimuddin Kiram has said he would rather die than surrender his sultanate’s rights to Sabah, which he said has belonged to his clan and its followers for centuries.
At least 62 people have been killed in sporadic clashes between Sabah authorities and the Filipino clansmen hiding in or around Sabah’s coastal district of Lahad Datu. Malaysian police have arrested 85 men and women, who were being held without trial under a security law, for alleged links to the gunmen.
A Malaysian crackdown to flush out Kiram and his followers in Sabah has sparked accusations of human rights violations and arbitrary arrests of Filipinos, who have long settled there in search of work and opportunities, and to escape from the poverty and a decades-long Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines. Malaysian officials denied the accusations.
The Philippines main concern was the safety and welfare of about 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah.
For the full interview, listen to the attached audio clip from Radyo Inquirer 990AM. Jamie Elona
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