Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Intruders snub Aquino's warning to leave Sabah

5:01PM Feb 26, 2013 
Despite a stern warning from Philippine President Benigno Aquino, the followers of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram, who have holed up in a village in Lahad Datu, will not leave Sabah.

Abraham Idjirani, secretary-general and spokesperson of the heirs to the defunct sultanate, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer today that the self-styled sultan is willing to be arrested if the Aquino administration decides to file a case against the chieftain.

NONEHowever he stressed that the "royal forces" of the Jamalul (left) did not intend to trigger a war when they started occupying the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu on Feb 9.

"What we need now is a mutual understanding," Idjirani said in a press briefing held today at Kiram’s house in Taguig City.

"We welcome the statement of the president. It’s a development on the right track," he added.

He said the decision of Jamalul’s followers to stay in Sabah "is not a hardline stance."

The Filipino daily also reported that the standoff between Malaysian security forces and Jamalul’s armed intruders, which entered into a third week on Monday, could be ended within the next 48 hours.

It reported that simmering discontent is believed to be building up within the ranks of the group led by Jamalul’s brother Agbimuddin Kiram, with gunshots heard from Tanduao on Sunday.

NONEAlthough Sabah police chief Hamza Taib (right) has denied reports of gunfire or some of Agbimuddin’s men being shot, a source told the daily said the gunshots were a warning to stop followers of the sultan who wanted to leave.

“The shots were probably meant for those who went with (Agbimuddin) but now want to go home,” said the source, a Philippine diplomat.

No one was hurt, the source said, but the gunshots “startled the already edgy security forces.”

Philippine veep Binay meets Jamalul

Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay had also met Jamalul on Sunday night to convince him to end the crisis peacefully by allegedly promising to bring the Sulu sultanate’s Sabah claim to the United Nations.

“He explained to me their position and I listened to him... I then reiterated the position of the Philippine government and renewed my appeal for sobriety,” Binay said in a press statement released yesterday.

Jamalul told reporters yesterday that Binay supported his action and promised to help the sultanate find a peaceful solution to the standoff.

NONE“He asked if it was true that Malaysia was paying us (for Sabah). When I (explained to him the situation), he said, ‘In that case, that’s ours.’ It’s the vice-president saying that that’s ours. That includes him,” Jamalul said.

“When I told him about the sultanate of Sulu, I thought tears flowed from the eyes of the vice-president. He said, ‘Don’t worry. If in case the president did not want to help you, I will (still help you).’ That’s what he said.”

The daily also reported that a statement from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the ship leaving for Lahad Datu to bring back the armed group was still in Tawi-Tawi, awaiting diplomatic clearance to enter Malaysian waters and be on standby off Lahad Datu to receive the group.

“We have learned that (Malaysian forces) have surrounded the area. So what we want to happen is (for) this group to now decide to leave the area for safety and get on board our humanitarian ship,” said DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez.

NONE“We don’t want them to get hurt, to think of resorting to violence or whatever. That’s why we sent a ship there. It’s ready to go to the border when we have people who are ready to be moved and fetched,” he said.

“Hopefully, before Tuesday, they will already be on board our ship,” he added.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters that the ship will stay there as long as it is needed.

Another vessel that carried a family member of Jamalul accompanied by certain government officials had also reportedly left Sulu early yesterday for Sabah. 

Talks were going on yesterday between government emissaries and the sultan’s family, despite the reported hardline stand of Jamalul.

“We have some people whom we have sent to talk to the family and the group in that area and we are hoping they will be convinced to leave the area for their safety,” Hernandez said.

~ Malaysiakini

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