Sulu royalty open to talks, wants recognition of Sabah claim

Jamalul speaks to reporters, surrounded by photographers, during a brief news conference in front of the Blue Mosque in Taguig city, south of Manila on February 22, 2013. — Reuters picJamalul speaks to reporters, surrounded by photographers, during a brief news conference in front of the Blue Mosque in Taguig city, south of Manila on February 22, 2013. — Reuters pic

Self-professed Sulu sultan, Jamalul Kiram III told the Philippine Daily Inquirer he was still open to negotiating with the Aquino administration despite the Philippine president's stand siding with the Malaysian government.

"The negotiation is not too late as I said because everything is open. The door of the sultanate for negotiation is open," Jamalul was quoted as saying in a Manila news conference at his home this afternoon.

Jamalul who claims to descend from the royal Sulu sultanate that had owned the Borneo state — now a part of Malaysia — reportedly said the family was only claiming their land.

Jamalul's brother Agbimuddin Kiram, is reported to be the leader of an armed group estimated to number between 100 and 200 men, that landed in Lahad Datu, Sabah on February 9 and have been engaged in gunfights with Malaysian security forces on three fronts.

The months-old Borneo Insider news portal had previously reported that Agbumuddin once served as an assistant district officer in Kudat when Tun Mustapha Harun was Sabah chief minister.

Putrajaya has sent in two battalions to reinforce security forces in the state after seven policemen were killed over the weekend.

The Filipino camp, seen to be intruding in Malaysian territory, has suffered 14 deaths.

Malaysian police are working with the military in a joint manhunt for 10 suspected gunmen said to be linked to the group.

Jamalul told the reporters he was puzzled why the Philippine government was siding with Malaysia.

"Why not side [with] us? We are Filipinos and they side with Malaysia?" he said.

He was reported saying his supporters had made the trip to Sabah only because they wanted to settle down in the land that had belonged to the Sulu sultanate.

"This is not a joke. Malaking gulo ito, malaking gulo ito (This is big trouble)," he told the reporters.

Jamalul was reported saying the territorial matter was a serious one, adding that many Tausugs and Filipino Muslims were prepared to die for their cause.

His daughter, Jacel Kiram, was reported saying the family wanted to meet with an official emissary from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, one whose communication the government would not later deny.

"If they are really concerned and really serious to resolve this peacefully, how hard would it be to sit with us and talk with us directly without going through a middleman?

"This is a national issue, even international issue. Why can't our government come to us?" she was quoted saying.

Jacel related to Philippine reporters the Aquino administration had denied on Philippine national TV it had sent any emissary to negotiate with the family while they were speaking with Mujiv Hataman, said to be the officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

She urged the family's followers to stay calm and not give into their anger at the Malaysian government for treating those currently in Sabah as the "enemy".

She reminded the Filipino Muslims that Malaysians in the country were not the enemy.

President Aquino has twice appealed to Jamalul to order his followers to pull out from Sabah and return home.

The Philippine Justice Department has also said it was mulling taking the territorial dispute over Sabah to be adjudicated at the World Court.

The Najib administration, which is seen to have treated the Sulu group with kid gloves over the last three weeks, had delivered an ultimatum to the militants yesterday — surrender, or face drastic action.



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