Philippine sultan says followers won't leave Malaysian territory
Followers of a Philippine sultan who went to the Malaysian state of Sabah this month will not leave and are reclaiming the area as their ancestral territory, the sultan said Sunday during a tense standoff.
Sultan Jamalul Kiram said his followers -- some 400 people including 20 gunmen -- were resolute in staying despite being cornered by security forces, with Kuala Lumpur insisting the group return to the Philippines.
The sultan told reporters in Manila, "Why should we leave our own home? In fact they (the Malaysians) are paying rent (to us). Our followers will stay in (the Sabah town of) Lahad Datu. Nobody will be sent to the Philippines. Sabah is our home."
He did not directly threaten violence but said "there will be no turning back for us."
Malaysian officials believe many in the group have weapons, but Kiram insisted his followers made the trip unarmed. He said, "If they have arms, they were already in Sabah."
The southern Philippine-based Islamic sultanate once controlled parts of Borneo, including the location of the stand-off, and its heirs have been receiving a nominal annual compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah.
Kiram said he was motivated to send the group to Sabah after the sultanate was left out of a framework agreement in October between Manila and Filipino Muslim insurgents, which paves the way for an autonomous zone in the southern Philippines that is home to the Muslims.
The sultanate's spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said there were about 400 followers in the area, including about 20 who were armed. On Thursday, Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein put the number at between 80 to 100 gunmen.
Idjirani said the group would not initiate violence but would resist if provoked. He said, "We recognize the capability of Malaysia. We don't have the arms and capacity but we have the historical truth."
He added that the group's "fate is to see the recognition they are entitled to... or they die defending their ancestral rights."
Idjirani said President Benigno Aquino's top aides had been in contact with the sultan and were willing to deliver a letter to Malaysia's government on his behalf for negotiations.
Posted by: ryuge