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Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Sultan of Sulu reclaims eastern Sabah, MNLF among invaders

Carpenter, Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, Philippine Islands,  from 1913-1920, with the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II.
THE Sultanate of Sulu was a traditional Islamic monarchy of the Tausug people that covered the Philippine provinces of Basilan, Palawan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the eastern part of Sabah.

It was founded in 1457 by religious scholar and explorer Sharif Abu Bakar, who assumed the title Sultan Shariful Hashim after his marriage to Paramisuli, a local princess.

He promulgated the first Sulu Code of Laws (Diwan) that were based on the Quran, and introduced an Islamic political institution and the consolidation of Islam as a state religion.

In 1675, the throne of what is now Brunei was disputed and the Sultan of Sulu was asked to settle the conflict, after which he was rewarded with North Borneo (now eastern Sabah).

In 1878, the Sulu Sultan leased North Borneo to the Europeans. The agreement stated that the lease was of their own free will and was valid until the end of time.

The sultanate received an annual cession payment that was equivalent to 5,000 Malayan dollars, which was increased to 5,300 Malayan dollars in 1903.

North Borneo was a British protectorate from the late 19th century until it became a crown colony.

It gained a brief period of independence before becoming part of Malaysia in 1963. From then, Malaysia paid RM5,300 as cession payment each year to the sultanate.

The former Sultan’s descendants did not retake the territory, instead, agreeing to accept the cession payment under the previous arra­ngement. This lasted until a few weeks ago.

The Sulu sultanate was also under the control of Spain, but the Spaniards in 1885 signed the Madrid Protocol with Britain and Germany, relinquishing any claim to North Borneo.

The sultanate ended when Sultan Jamalul Kiram II signed the Carpenter Agreement on March 22, 1915, in which he ceded all political power to the United States.

The Philippines, however, continued to recognise the sultanate as a sovereign entity until the demise of Sultan Mohd Mahakuttah A. Kiram in 1986.

There are now at least 11 claimants to the title Sultan of Sulu, including Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

MNLF elements among invaders

PETALING JAYA: The Sulu invaders are not officially recognised by any group other than the self-styled Sulu Sultanate and its supporters, said Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia Professor Dr Aruna Gopinath.

“This is just a name this group has decided to create and call themselves by so that they can come and attack us.

“The bigger threat is if other militants join this group under the banner of the south Philippines and try to attack us as well,” said Aruna, an expert on Philippine history, politics and security.

Some of the Sulu fighters were possibly trained by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari before they broke away from the group.

She explained that many of the armed militants in southern Philippines used to be members of the MNLF, from which many breakaway groups later emerged with most of them belonging to the Suluk or Tausug ethnic group, which the MNLF once represented.

“Some among the so-called Sulu army could have had combat experience during their previous stint in the MNLF before they broke away. They do have some degree of skill and are not mere marauders as there appears to be some quite capable people on the ground,” said Aruna.

She said that when Misuari became MNLF head he clamoured for secession but the Philippine Government insisted on autonomy as the only option.

While Misuari accepted, another leader Hashim Selamat did not and broke away with his supporters to form the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

When the MILF later realised that secession was not the answer it agreed to negotiate for greater autonomy with the Philippines, a process Malaysia is helping to broker.

The MILF, said Aruna, is currently the biggest armed group in the southern Philippines with a standing army of more than 200,000.

She said the MNLF no longer has a large army because apart from the MILF breakaway, other splinter groups also emerged later including the Abu Sayyaf and the Rajah Sulayman militant group.

Aruna said many youths in the troubled region join armed groups due to endemic poverty.

“Parts of the south do not even have piped water and proper roads and the MNLF and MILF soldiers I've interviewed said they basically joined because they were hungry, so poverty is a driving factor.”

Universiti Utara Malaysia Emeritus Professor Dr Ranjit Singh said that aside from the sultan's supporters, some among the Sulu terrorists could also be followers of the many local warlords in the region.

“However, since there is no Sultanate of Sulu at present, and with so many claimants to the throne, an officially recognised army does not exist,” he said.

Sources: The Star/Asian News Network

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