MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Saturday, July 30, 2022

“Sulu Claims: Two Wrongs Did Not Make A Right”


THE FORMER attorney-general (AG) under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government Tan Sri Tommy Thomas has sought to give his side of the story on the Sulu heirs’ traditional claim on Sabah.

The history of this claim started with the agreement in 1878 between the Sulu sultanate and the two Europeans entrepreneurs. By ceding or leasing Sabah to the entrepreneurs, the Sulu heirs received annual payments.

When Sabah became a colony of the British in 1946, the payments became the responsibility of the British. Similarly, when Sabah was incorporated with the Federation of Malaysia, the payment of RM5,300 was continued by the Government without much thought.

After having signed the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the new Malaysian Government could have discontinued the payments under the new political circumstances, but didn’t. Why this was so would remain a mystery for a long time.

Fast forward to 2013, when the Government under former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak abruptly stopped the payments to the Sulu heirs.

This was after the incursion in Sabah in early 2013, allegedly by armed insurgents loyal to the Sulu heirs. Clashes with the Malaysian armed forces resulted in the death of a number of insurgents, villagers and few members of the armed forces.

After that, Najib, without a public inquiry, unilaterally stopped the annual stipends.

Since there were many claimants to the Sulu sultanate, it couldn’t be established whether those heirs in the receipt of annual payments were indeed behind the insurgency.

If the matter had been taken to the court in Sabah, the links between the insurgents and the real Sulu heirs could have been established for Malaysia to adopt a definitive stand on the payments.

The unilateral cessation of payments to the Sulu heirs was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For this irrationality, Najib has to take sole responsibility and not pass the buck to the others.

Although the Malaysian Government agreed to continue the payment to the Sulu heirs, which was started by the British in 1946, there was no necessity for the Malaysian Government to do in 1963. It could have washed its hands off completely from the mess with the Sulu heirs.

A gross mistake was made, according to Thomas.

“No necessity”

The question is why did the PH Government, knowing very well that there was no necessity to make payments to the Sulu heirs, agree to pay the arrears of RM48,000 between 2013 to 2022? This was a clear example where two wrongs do not make it right.

Was the proposed payment of arrears approved by the Government? Was it made public?

Additionally, why did the Najib government keep the public in the dark as to why the payments to Sulu heirs were stopped following the armed incursion in Sabah? Why was the proposed payment of arrears not fully disclosed to the public?

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government under Najib seriously blundered on the matter of resolving the territorial dispute with the Sulu heirs.

On the other hand, by coming up with the proposal of arrears, the PH government had no clue as to how to resolve the demands of the Sulu heirs from a diplomatic approach.

By giving undue importance to legality, both the BN and PH governments had a share in prolonging the claims of the Sulu heirs to the extent that arbitration has come to be relied on.

The lawyers representing the Sulu heirs might be unscrupulous and greedy, but the fact remains that since Malaysia is a party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, it doesn’t matter where the claims are filed.

Of all persons, Thomas should know this. It serves no purpose in blaming the arbitration process relied on by the lawyers representing the Sulu heirs.

Surely, the fault is not in the stars but in ourselves.  -focusmalaysia.my


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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