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Thursday, February 28, 2013

It's just a picnic in Sabah, says Sulu sultan's wife



As tension has been running high at Lahad Datu over the stand-off between Filipino intruders and the Malaysian authorities, the wife of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram has tried to portray the intrusion in a better light by describing it as a mere 'picnic'.

However, Mujiv Hataman, acting governor of the Philippine Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao yesterday claimed that he has received information that the Malaysian police surrounding the intruders at Lahad Datu had been replaced by the Malaysian military force, a sign that an eviction by force is imminent.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jamalul's wife, Fatima Cecilia Kiram, told a news briefing at Jamalul's home in Manila yesterday that the intrusion of the so-called 'Sulu royal army' is a 'benevolent action'.

NONE"This is not a rebellion. I actually refer to it as an excursion. Our people there were just having a picnic," she was quoted as saying. 

Fatima has also denied Philippine President Benigno Aquino's (right) allegation that the members of the 'royal forces' who have been holding up in Kampung Tanduo - some 130km from the Lahad Datu town since Feb 9 - were being funded by others.

"These speculations are part of their desperate moves. They thought our people will not move without a financer. If we have a financer, we could have had more than 250 people going there. Our people may have had more than 30 firearms. In that case, what we will see is an invasion," she said.

She added that the sultanate's followers have raised less than P100,000 (about RM7,500) from their own pockets to buy gasoline for the motorboats to travel to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi, and that they were provided with food by the residents of Tanduo, since most of them were relatives of the sultanate.

Although she admitted that the family was facing financial woes, Fatima stressed that money is not the reason behind their claim on Sabah.

The sultanate and its followers, she said, "have had enough" of the Philippine government's indifference to their plight and their decades-old struggle to assert the sultanate's ownership of Sabah.

On the other hand, Hataman said that if his information is correct about the replacement of Malaysian police at Lahad Datu with the military forces instead, it indicates that Kuala Lumpur is poised to end the stand-off by forcibly deporting Jamalul's brother, Azzimudie Kiram, and his armed followers who number about 180.

M'sian authorities keep mum

"We still need to verify this information, but that was the latest news we got," he was quoted as saying.

However, there has been no confirmation from the Malaysian authorities yet. 

Azzimidie, who is in his mid-60s, told Malaysiakini yesterday that he and his men would defend themselves should the Malaysian authorities move in with force to evict them.

NONE"We are ready to defend ourselves," he said, stressing that they will not leave Sabah without the order from his elder brother, Jamalul.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported that Manila has again asked Kuala Lumpur to extend by "several days", the grace period it has given to the group to leave Sabah peacefully.

So far, the three deadlines given to them have been extended - with the last ending on midnight yesterday - but the group remains defiant, despite stern warnings from Aquino to charge him for inducing a war.

The latest Philippine request for an extension of the deadline went through on Tuesday evening, just as the third extension ended, according to Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (above).

He, however, did not specify on the duration of the fresh extension.

"I asked for several days," he alleged.

According to the Filipino daily, Jamalul told reporters yesterday that he was thankful about the presidential order to study the Sabah claim, but remains resentful of the threat that had been thrown at him.

"What crime did I commit?" he asked.

NONE"I did not order my brother to go to Sabah. It's their own free will to go there and to settle down there, believing that the area is part of their homeland," he stressed.

Jamalul (left) said that he was angry with the way the Aquino administration has been handling the Sabah issue.

"I am angry right now because we are being taken for granted," he claimed.

Fatima reiterated the demand that Manila should send an official representative to the sultanate and start the formal talks with Malaysia.

However, Philippine presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda insisted that Jamalul must withdraw his men from Sabah before commencing any talks. 

‘Negotiating with a gun to my head'


"You don't hold a gun to my head and negotiate. You know, it's like you're putting a gun to my head and telling me, ‘Let's talk'. That's not the way decent people do negotiations. You want us to know your claim, you cooperate," Lacierda told a news briefing at the palace yesterday.

"The president has said, ‘come back home and we will talk'. But you're asking me to talk to you while (your) people are in Sabah (and) there's a possibility of violence. That's not acceptable to us."

He noted that the government could not be faulted if the defiance of Jamalul resulted in violence in Sabah.

"We have sent emissaries. We've asked the Malaysians to extend the deadline. We will continue to press for a peaceful resolution, but the ball is in their court," Lacierda said.
On another note, Utusan Malaysia has reported that the Malaysian authorities have given the group its last chance to end the stand-off by spreading leaflets, appealing them to surrender.

The leaflets - written in the Sulu language - were distributed on Tuesday.

The Malaysian authorities have also urged the group to bury their weapons and surrender themselves by carrying the leaflets with them as a sign of their surrender. 

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