Saturday, February 23, 2013
Aquino wants study on Sulu sultan's Sabah claim
As Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram's militants continue their standoff with Malaysian authorities in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Manila has ordered a study of Jamalul’s claim to Sabah and deployed six naval ships to the waters off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to contain the conflict.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, President Benigno Aquino (right), in an apparent move to appease Jamalul, ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Office of the President to study the legal validity of the sultanate’s claim to Sabah.
Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the DOJ would look into the legal aspects of the claim. The DFA will deal with the policy dimension while the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office will handle the historical aspect of the claim.
The study, which has no deadline, will include an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Sulu sultanate’s claim to Sabah, Leila said.
“I will try to finish it in a few days,” she said.
Manila has also sent emissaries to Jamalul to talk to him about settling the crisis peacefully, the daily reported.
Several Philippine senators suspect the intrusion on Feb 9 by dozens of armed men, who claim to be the ‘royal army of Sulu’, to be part of a plot to derail the peace process between the Philippine government and the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Malaysian authorities have surrounded the group and a standoff has been in place since Feb 12, with "negotiations" said to be going on.
Yesterday, AFP reported that Aquino criticised the group and warned that their actions could lead to conflict.
He said his government had been talking to all parties, including the sultan’s family, to find a peaceful solution.
Six Philippine ships deployed
Another report published by The Star-Asia News Network says six Philippine naval ships have been deployed in the sea off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to prevent a possible spillover from the Lahad Datu standoff.
The ships are only conducting patrols within the waters of Tawi-Tawi islands, less than a half-hour speedboat ride from the seaside village of Tandau, where the Sulu group has been holed up.
Philippines Navy spokesperson Lt-Commander Gregory Fabic was quoted as telling the media in Manila that the naval vessels would not dock in Sabah waters but were there to help make the situation stable.
He said there were no instructions given for the evacuation of the Sulu group led by Azzimudie Kiram, the brother of Jamalul.
“We are hoping that this will be resolved peacefully. If they are retreating, we are not there to help them because we need instructions if they can be picked up,” Fabic was quoted as saying.
“If there are conflicts, we cannot help them. We will (only go there) if it is resolved peacefully and are given instructions to repatriate them,” Fabic added.
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Local residents speak out on Lahad Datu intrusion
Gary Louis Supi
12:25PM Feb 22, 2013
Immediately after news of an intrusion by a group of armed men at Tanduo, a coastal area near the Felda Sahabat 17 broke out, the situation in the nearby Lahad Datu town became busy with the activities of the security forces.
According to residents in Lahad Datu, a coastal town in the east of Sabah, many military trucks were seen moving on Jalan Silabukan, heading for the stand-off location.
Malaysian security forces were busy patrolling the town on foot and patrol helicopters were making the rounds over the area, coupled with police roadblocks set up in several areas of the town, especially along Jalan Silabukan.
Schools located along Jalan Silabukan, including those in Bakapit, Tungku and the Felda settlement, were closed and additional security forces were stationed at the Felda area.
While some residents around Lahad Datu town were anxious about the situation, some carried on with their daily lives, without much concern.
According to resident Prichard Jimmy, it was business as usual for many shops despite the heavy military presence and patrols,.
"The situation here is still like normal. Many shops still open while some are closed. The residents are not panicky because they know the authorities are having tight inspections on the roads.
"Many helicopters shuttle to Tungku. I am afraid to walk in the night for fear of being abducted," Prichard told Malaysiakini.
According to him, many residents avoided using Jalan Silabukan, except those living in areas along the main road.
Many from the peninsula have left town
Another resident, Nihal Singh, confirmed that many shops were closed, and many Chinese residents have left Lahad Datu town since the intrusion.
"Many Chinese from the peninsula have left the town. Some may have gone to other towns and some may have returned to the peninsula.
"Some are not sending their children to kindergartens, including me," Nihal said.
Another woman, who only wanted to be known as Siti, said she saw into seven military trucks escorted by two motorbikes as she was her way back to Semporna. However, the trucks were empty.
Anthony Teo, who feels "an underlying tension" over the area, has also come across many military vehicles heading to the Felda Sahabat area.
The situation around Felda Sahabat is very much different, for it has come under an eerie silence since the intrusion by the militants.
An employee of a financial institution in Lahad Datu, who does not want to be named, said the situation was frightening and he was reluctant to work under such a situation as his office was just 16km from the stand-off zone.
He said the official statements released by the authorities do no reflect the situation there.
Another villager staying along Jalan Silabukan expressed the same sentiment.
"Helicopters were continuously making patrols while traffic on the road has reduced. The situation is tense and frightening," he said, also requesting anonymity.
Speculation is rife among Lahad Datu residents that the intruders are veterans of Abu Sayaff, the militant Islamist separatist group based in southern Philippines.
Posted by wikisabah at 3:44:00 AM