ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/01 March)— Two peace advocates in Lanao del Norte urged Friday the Philippine and Malaysian governments to peacefully resolve the Sabah conflict arising from the claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu.
A firefight reportedly broke Friday morning between the Sultanate’s “Royal Security Forces” and Malaysian authorities, with allegedly 10 killed and four wounded on the part of the former.
In a statement earlier today, the DFA said that 10 of Kiram’s followers allegedly surrendered to Malaysian authorities.
“This issue should be resolved jointly by the Philippine and Malaysian governments,“ said Carino Antequisa of the Mindanao Peace-building Institute (MPI).
Two weeks ago, some 180 armed followers of the Sultanate of Sulu, headed by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, holed up in Lahad Datu, Sabah to assert their historical claim over the area and also to express their dissatisfaction over their alleged exclusion in consultations for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that was inked by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year.
Malaysian security forces had given them until Thursday to leave the area.
President Benigno Aquino III had asked Kiram’s followers to return peacefully to avoid possible bloodshed.
A ship has been sent to bring back the armed men, but Kiram rejected the offer.
Aquino also asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice to study the sultanate’s claims.
“It cannot be denied that Sulu residents have historical claim over that ancestral domain, but the best solution is not through the barrels of the gun but through joint state discussion on the problem because the present truth is that the land claimed by Kiram and his group is already within the conflicting jurisdictions of the two states,” said Antequisa.
“Nothing will be lost to the Philippines and Malaysia if they will jointly deal with the Sultan and his followers from Sulu. I think it’s better for Malaysia to accommodate them temporarily rather than shot or deport them,” he said.
In a phone interview, Malaysian consul general Abdullah Zawawi, whose is currently in Mindanao, declined to comment on the situation in Sabah.
Antequisa suggested that Philippine and Malaysian governments declare Sabah as a “special zone” where Sulu people could live with the Malaysians pending the final resolution of the matter.
Abel Moya, former manager of Pakigdait Inc. that is involved in peace-building efforts in the conflict zones of Mindanao, also suggested that the parties in the Sabah problem should resolve the issue through negotiations or under the framework of conflict transformation.
“The resolution should be done within contextual historical analysis,” he said.
Moya urged the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) to assist the DoJ and the DFA because “they have the mediation skills.”
OPAPP should also address their concern that they were excluded in the FAB, he added. (Violeta Gloria/MindaNews)