‘Sultan’s men killed by Malaysian navy’
http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/04/27/935416/sultans-men-killed-malaysian-navyMANILA, Philippines - The sultanate of Sulu yesterday confirmed that 35 of its supporters in Sabah were killed on Wednesday as reported by Malaysia’s Star Online.
But Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultanate, said the 35 were killed by the Malaysian Navy and not by Philippine forces as previously reported.
Idjirani said the information was relayed to him yesterday by Guro Bata II, a commander of the sultanate in Lahad Datu town in Sabah.
“He called me up and informed me that members of the Malaysian Navy on speedboats were the ones who shot them on Wednesday night while in Malaysian waters. The bodies were then taken to Philippine waters where they were dumped overboard,” he said.
On Thursday, Star online reported the 35 men were allegedly shot by the Philippine Navy as they tried to cross into Sabah from Sulu.
The Star quoted Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that the armed men were shot by Philippine Navy and Coast Guard personnel before they could enter Malaysian waters with the reported mission of disrupting the upcoming Malaysian elections.
“If they had entered our waters, we would have taken them out. We will defend our country,” Zahid said in a press conference in Georgetown, Penang.
Zahid cited intelligence reports that the “Sulu militants” were out to terrorize the Malaysian general elections on May 5.
The report was earlier denied by both the Philippine Navy and by the Sulu sultanate.
The sultanate’s forces have been locked in a standoff with Malaysian security forces since they landed in Lahad Datu last Feb. 12 in their bid to stake their ancestral claim on Sabah.
Idjirani said the sultanate believes that the shooting of the 35 by the Malaysian Navy and placing the blame on Philippine security forces was planned to drive a wedge between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Philippine government.
Idjirani said by creating friction between the MNLF-influenced Sulu archipelago and Malacañang, it would be easier for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-backed Bangsamoro region to take shape.
The government is currently talking peace with the MILF with the initial agreement of creating a Bangsamoro autonomous region.
The sultanate had called on the Philippine government to take up the issue of their claim to Sabah before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei (ASEAN) summit in Brunei.
The Philippines, however, will not be seeking multilateral action on the Sabah claim but will discuss the territorial issue “bilaterally” with Malaysia, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
“If there are disputes, it should be discussed on a bilateral basis. We have selected that route. Bilateral consultations had been ongoing. That’s the way to do it,” Del Rosario said in Malacañang yesterday.
Del Rosario said the Sabah issue was not raised in the ASEAN summit in Brunei because it was not on the agenda.
“It was not part of agenda. Also, I think that the position of the Philippines and of ASEAN historically is – if there are disputes between member states, it should be discussed on a bilateral basis,” Del Rosario explained.
“There was no discussion regarding the Sabah conflict. The (Malaysian) foreign minister was not present. The (Malaysian) prime minister was not present. They were busy with the elections in Malaysia,” he added. – Delon Porcalla