Side Views

Disguising imminent defeat as unilateral ceasefire — William M. Esposo

March 10, 2013

MARCH 10 — You have to hand it to the Sultanate of Sulu for its masterful utilization of propaganda methods. Their unilateral declaration of a ceasefire, timed after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for a cessation of hostilities in Sabah, was a face-saving device to avert the humiliation of defeat by the vastly superior Malaysian armed forces.

The casualties were rising in the Sultanate’s side and if a reliable source is to be believed — they’re running low on supplies in Sabah. Last Monday, March 4, my informer in the Sultan Jamalul Kiram camp told me that by Friday, March 7, the so-called Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu could run out of bullets. The so-called unilateral ceasefire called last Thursday, March 7, by the Kirams coincides with this development.

By calling for a unilateral ceasefire, the Sultanate hopes to avoid humiliating defeat and if Malaysia bites — they’ll be elevated to the status of an equal, instead of criminals who invaded and terrorized a territory that had voted in 1963 to remain with Malaysia. No way would Malaysia bite at that declaration of a unilateral ceasefire. They had the terrorists encircled. They would want to teach these terrorists a lesson. As expected, Malaysia rejected the call to reciprocate the Sultanate’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire and opted to press their offensive. Malaysia is determined to charge the Sultan and his followers in court and have them tried as criminals.

The Kirams didn’t fool me for a moment. Ever since the Sabah shooting started, they were engaging in psywar (psychological warfare) and many of our media colleagues provided them with undeserved exposure. In the Iraq War, we laughed our heads off when we heard that Iraqi propaganda minister predict the annihilation of US-led forces. Over here, our media could not discern if they were facing a Baghdad Bob, as that Iraqi propaganda minister was fondly called, and bit hook, line and sinker the Sultanate’s propaganda lines.

Last Wednesday, March 6, the truth finally emerged. The Filipinos in Sabah who were supposed to rally to the Sultan’s cause refused to be associated with the Sabah incident. They condemned it. They were more concerned with their livelihoods, lives and assets. The real situation on the ground must have dawned on the Kirams — they were running low on supplies, their casualties were rising and there were no reinforcements to be expected from the local Sabah Filipino population.

The call for a ceasefire by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon provided the Kirams with a face saving mechanism to call for a unilateral ceasefire. Throughout the crisis, they were proudly boasting of their willingness to die and that they’ll never surrender. In my book, that unilateral ceasefire was all about throwing in the towel after creating so many deaths, havoc and tension. If we had a narrow-minded president, we could have been dragged into a war with Malaysia.

In declaring the unilateral ceasefire, Abraham Idjirani, Sultanate spokesman was quoted: “The achievement of the Sultanate of Sulu obtained over the last few days cannot compare to the value of lives lost since the March 1st massacre.” Do they mean that this did not occur to them when they planned this misadventure? And do you believe them?

It’s amazing how many supposedly educated folks were taken for a ride by this Sabah misadventure. They were made to perceive the troublemakers as romantic Muslim warriors, believing the Kiram proud boast that they were willing to die for their cause, which is to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia. Nobody even wondered why this under-manned and under-gunned Royal Army was hoping to regain Sabah from Malaysia when we, with our armed forces, cannot and should not undertake that misadventure.

Forget about all the presentation of documents, speeches and what not about our historical claim to Sabah. These documents further cluttered the confused minds of many — instead of enlightening them. When more light shines on a confused mind, the more confused it gets. That’s what happened to these charlatans and would-be instant Sabah experts who failed to see through the pattern of deception being weaved and the futility of reviving the Sabah claim now.  

The March 6 editorial of GMA News online that was contributed by an anthropologist best described the bottom line of this exercise in hypertension: “The asymmetry between the failed Sultanate and the modern Malaysian state it is challenging could not be more stark. What is interesting is that, confronted by a challenge to its sovereignty, Malaysia has revealed the true basis of a state’s power. Not democracy, not a social contract, not the rule of law, not the recognition of the international community of states — which are the myths, the lies the state tells about itself — but violence.”

It continued: “Sabah belongs to Malaysia because they can hold on to it, and neither the Philippines nor the Sultanate can take it from them. So the Sultanate fails in modern, “statist” terms as well, in that it cannot match Malaysia’s capacity for violence.”

Go check the capability of the Malaysian armed forces. In 2012, they spent US$4.37 billion. Go check the Malaysian air force and their combined firepower composed of BAE Hawk Mk.208, Sukhoi Su-30 MKM Flanker, Boeing F/A-18D Hornet, Mikoyan MiG-29N Fulcrum and Northrop F-5E Tiger II jets. Malaysia could destroy a Philippine invasion expedition within an hour after it leaves a Philippine port.

When the charlatans and P-Noy haters raised their voices to “save the Filipino invaders in Sabah” they’re actually suggesting that we should send an expedition there to rescue the troublemakers. Philippine-Malaysia relations have been mutually beneficial in terms of trade and tourism. Malaysia played a key role in the crafting of the framework for peace with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). It’s insane to want to be at war with such an ASEAN neighbour.

To bolster the Malaysian claim to Sabah, they have a 1963 referendum where two-thirds of Sabah voted to remain with Malaysia. The UN duly acknowledged the validity of this referendum. To bolster the Malaysia claim, Dictator Ferdinand Marcos had renounced our claim to Sabah in 1977. To bolster the Malaysian claim to Sabah, the international court where these claims are contested doesn’t honour historical claims because that would only open a Pandora’s box. That would mean the return of the Americas to the Native Americans or the return of California and Texas to the Mexicans.

In effect, these charlatans and P-Noy haters want us to embrace a trouble-making Sultanate and lose our good and mutually beneficial relations with Malaysia over a spurious Sabah claim. These charlatans like to posture as patriots. They’re really traitors. — The Philippine Star

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.