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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sabah leaders reject Duterte’s claim on state, mixed on resolving Philippine issue

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah leaders have dismissed the latest claims on Sabah from the Philippines, noting that Sabahans and international law see the state as part of Malaysia.

However, some leaders say the Malaysian government must take a more assertive stand on ownership in response to incoming Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte's intention to pursue his country's claim on Sabah.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the state has never recognised nor acknowledged the Philippines, or any other quarter, who staked their claim on the resource-rich Borneo state.

“People in Sabah are enjoying peace, stability and economic prosperity within Malaysia. Our allegiance is to the Malaysian flag. The claim is irrelevant," he said in a statement.

Several Philippine dailies reported Thursday Duterte telling a news conference in Davao City that his administration recognises Sabah as Sulu sultanate territory, which is being claimed by the Kiram clan behind the 2013 Lahad Datu invasion, and that he intends on pursuing the claim.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the latest news was nothing new to the state and did not pose a cause for worry.

“It’s the same old song, new singer. I am not the least surprised. Why should we worry? We have been hearing the same song since 1963.

“In any case, the people of Sabah have made known their preference in 1963 and the will of our people was fully recognised and accepted by the United Nations and the international community. Neither the British nor our country ever recognised the so-called Philippines' claim on Sabah. There is absolutely no case to argue,” he said.

Putatan MP Datuk Marcus Mojigoh said that the new Philippines president was seeking political gain and the claim was, at best, “mere rhetorics”, and should be ignored.

“Duterte only wants political mileage from his people… he likes to jest. Even his description for the Pope is uncalled for. There is an Irish proverb that goes, ‘A new broom sweeps clean’, so it's best he is ignored.

“Once he settles down, he will realise there are certain things which is best not said,” said Mojigoh, adding that Duterte, like most Filipinos, probably have the mindset that Sabah belongs to them.

However, Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said that although the claim should have been settled a long time ago, certain quarters who have not given up their stake were a cause of concern.

“It is well known that the claim should no longer be an issue by now, but it is unfortunately still not resolved as evident from situations like the armed intrusion in 2013 by those wanting to take over Sabah,” he said.

Pairin said security threats continue to plague Sabahans and called for them to be resolved at a higher government level.

“It is the right time for us to sit down and discuss this at a diplomatic level, especially in [the] context of the Asean community. We should be using the right channels and talk in a friendly manner,” he said.

Sabah Opposition Leader Datuk Yong Teck Lee said the revived claim indicated that Malaysia was long overdue to launch a concerted campaign to convince the Philippines that they had no valid claim to Sabah.

“We should no longer stick to the old statement that Sabah belongs to Malaysia based on the 1963 referendum leading to the formation of Malaysia,” said the Sabah Progressive Party president.

“We need to be assertive and show that the Sabah claim is a hindrance to good ties with Malaysia. That Malaysia will review our peace-making role in the Southern Philippines. That the Philippines claim to Sabah tantamounts to not recognising Malaysia and therefore Malaysia may review its overall relations with the Philippines,” he said.

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