Exit passes deal a breach of Malaysian sovereignty, says PKR
PETALING JAYA, March 8 — The purported deal to give the Sulu militants “exit passes” and escape punishment is tantamount to a breach of Malaysia’s sovereignty and signals a weakness in the Najib administration, PKR said today.
Party strategic director Rafizi Ramli also chided Putrajaya for its alleged attempt to consider the Sulu Sultanate’s claim over Sabah, arguing that the right to determine the state’s future lies with its people and not in the hands of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Yesterday, the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted a Manila official as saying a tripartite deal had been brokered to allow the Sulu gunmen occupying Lahad Datu to return home freely if they bury their arms.
The negotiations also included Putrajaya’s supposed promise to revive the Sulu Sultanate’s claim over the state which it alleged to be its ancestral land.
“It is not the right of Datuk Seri Najib to make the decision at his whims and fancy to negotiate on Sabah’s position in Malaysia and consider the demands of the intruders. That right belongs to the people and his duty as the prime minister is defend our sovereignty vehemently.
“In fact, the offer for the Sulu intruders to leave or hide their weapons without any punitive action negatively signalled the Malaysian government’s tolerance towards the intruders.
“This will invite future intrusion if intruders are allowed to sneak in and recover the hidden weapons,” Rafizi (picture) told reporters here.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the “window of opportunity” for the group to walk away freely was open for “a week” when Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) took over the talks with the Kiram clan which nearly ended with a breakthrough on February 17.
The opportunity, however, ended when Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said the Malaysian government may deal with the Lahad Datu standoff in any way it deems appropriate in his presidential address on February 2
“Until the time the President (Aquino) spoke, there was this wonderful window where Malaysians agreed that the only thing they had to do was get rid of their weapons — either bury them, hide them — come home. No charges will be filed here in the Philippines; no charges will be filed in Malaysia,” Secretary Rene Almendras was quoted as saying.
“The initiative was to give a peaceful, non-embarrassing way to get out of the situation,” he added.
Rafizi said the news gave the impression that Najib was not dealing with the conflict well, a repeated allegation made by the opposition after the standoff, which began a month ago, prolonged without a response from the security forces.
The opposition has insisted that Putrajaya should have dealt with the 200 armed men swiftly and earlier, claiming that a Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government would have moved to neutralise the threat immediately.
“Taking too much time to negotiate, added by the terms of negotiations that threaten the country’s sovereignty, more or less affects the effectiveness of our operations to attack the intruders,” he said.
Rafizi said Najib has no other choice but to explain his administration’s purported weakness in addressing the conflict in an emergency Parliament sitting which PR has been pushing for since the standoff began.
Minister in the Prime Minister Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had said the power to convene the sitting was with Najib.
Thirty-two Sulu militants have been killed since the army launched airstrikes and ground assaults on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll among the Filipino gunmen in Sabah to 52, the authorities said yesterday.
Self-styled Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III unilaterally declared a ceasefire yesterday. Najib has rejected the ceasefire and called on the armed men to surrender unconditionally while Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the militants must be “eliminated”.
The armed band is led by Agbimuddin Kiram, Jamalul’s brother, in what it claimed was a campaign to reclaim Sabah as its rightful property leased to the North Borneo Company in the late 19th century and later to Malaysia.