COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2008) – A senior Malaysian politician furious over a renewed Philippine claims on Sabah have called for a stricter laws on Filipinos traveling to the oil-rich state.
Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the National Security Council should closely watch developments in the southern Philippines with the collapse of the Moro peace deal and release of former rebel leader Nur Misuari, the Malaysian’s Star reported.
Lee said the withdrawal last month of the Malaysian truce observers from Mindanao was a clear indication of the failure of the peace process involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
“Further worries included the rumblings from freed rebel Nur Misuari over the Philippines’ claim to Sabah and the re-grouping of the Moro National Liberation Front,” the Star said.
Misuari, who was ousted as MNLF chairman by Muslimin Sema, the Front’s Secretary General, wanted the International Court of Justice to settle the Philippine claims on Sabah if Malaysia fails to resolve the issue.
Lee said the NSC and the Sabah State Security Committee should act on the problems brought about by the failure of the peace process and Misuari’s revival of the Sabah claims.
“All these warrant the immediate attention of the National Security Council in Putrajaya and the Sabah State Security Committee,” he said.
He also urged Kuala Lumpur to suspend the ferry service between Zamboanga and Sandakan. “Malaysia can also suspend the Zamboanga-Sandakan ferry service, impose bonds on incoming visitors, require ferry passengers to have return tickets and step up enforcement at all levels of government,” he said.
The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo lays claim to Sabah. The Sultanate of Sulu was a Muslim state that ruled over much of the islands off the Sulu Sea. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to North Borneo, now known as Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north.
The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. The Sultanate of Sulu obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on the Borneo Island.
The British leased Sabah and transferred control over the territory to Malaysia after the end of Second World War. Even after Borneo became part of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur still pays an annual rent of 5,000 ringgit to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu Ismail Kiram.
Misuari said what Malaysia pays to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo is but a pittance.
The MNLF, under Misuari, signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending more than three decades of bloody fighting in the southern Philippines, and accepted a limited autonomy over four Muslim provinces – Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao that were later expanded into 5 provinces with Maguindanao as an addition and now has become six with the inclusion of Shariff Kabunsuan.
Misuari later became governor or the Muslim autonomous region, but later accused the government of failing to honor the peace agreement, and his forces attacked major military bases and held civilians hostage in Sulu province and Zamboanga City in November 2001.
He fled to Sabah, his former refuge, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities and sent back to Manila where he is now facing rebellion charges and currently out on bail.
Sema said the issue on Sabah has been a long irritant between the Philippines and Malaysia and he appealed to Misuari not to use this to stir restlessness among local Muslims in Mindanao.
“This has been a very old issue and we don’t want to strain our good relations with Malaysia at the expense of everybody. The Philippines has in the past approached this old issue with diplomacy and respect to maintain good bilateral relations with Malaysia and we wanted this to continue,” Sema told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)