DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/06 March) – A petition for Sabahans to assert their right to self-determination and their “wish to remain as Malaysians” has gone online, generating 3,014 signatures as of 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The six-paragraph petition, posted by the Sabahans for Peace in www.change.org and addressed to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, ‘acknowledge the shared history between Sabah and the Philippines whom we regard as friends” but added that the people of Sabah are “not politically beholden to these historical ties.”
The petition also appealed to the international community to “acknowledge the people of Sabah’s right to self-determination; to endorse the state’s constitutional sovereignty of the Malaysian government as valid and the desire of Sabahans to permanently reject the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on our home.”
‘The Philippines-Malaysia dispute over Sabah is about more than just land. It is also about the safety and security of Sabahans and the 800,000 Filipino citizens whom (sic) reside here,” it said.
The petition recalled that on February 9, “an armed group representing themselves as the Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo invaded Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia with orders from Jamalul Kiram III,” describing him as “one of the many claimants to the throne of the now defunct Sultanate of Sulu.”
It noted that the objectives set forth by Kiram’s group was to assert an unresolved territorial claim to eastern Sabah and that the standoff with Malaysian authorities started peacefully at first but turned violent on March 1.
At least 27 persons were killed as of March 3. Malaysia launched aerial and ground attacks to flush out Kiram’s followers from Lahad Datu on March 5. On March 6, Malaysian authorities announced 13 allegedl members of Kiram’s group were killed, bringing to 40 the death toll (see other story).
“Regrettably, there have been casualties on both sides, some fatal. The siege continues as this petition is being written. It is our greatest hope that this standoff will end peacefully and that no more blood be shed for Sabah,” the petition, uploaded on March 5, said.
“In light of the revival of the centuries old Sulu claim on Sabah (formerly known as North Borneo), we, the natural citizens of the independent state respectfully wish to deter anyone from pursuing this claim any further,” the Sabahans for Peace said.
“At no point in history has the modern nation-state Philippines ever actively ruled over North Borneo or its peoples. We respectfully and permanently reject their many claimants and deem their Sultanate irrelevant to modern day Sabah,” it added.
The petitioners said the citizens of Sabah want the Sabah and Federal parliament to convene an emergency meeting to declare the Malaysian government’s stand on “defending Sabah against any claims on the sovereignty of our state, be it from the autonomous southern Philippine province of Sulu or the Philippines itself;” to explain “why we are still paying cession money to the Sultanate of Sulu and to clear all doubts that this payment is ‘rent’ ;” and to give a mandate to the Malaysian armed forces to “employ whatever actions necessary to neutralise all threats to the safety of our citizens and country.”
The peace-loving people of Sabah, the petition said, “unanimously agree that whatever the result of any injunction or fact-finding mission, we wish to remain as Malaysians.”
Signatories to the petition expressed in English and Bahasa Malaysia, their reasons for supporting.
Brandon of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, wrote that while there may be many who sympathize with the Sultanate of Sulu, “do any of them stop to think how Sabahans themselves feel about getting their homeland tossed around like hot commodity? Are their lives, their families the ones affected by this whole fiasco? If the answer is no, then they have no right to say that the Sulu Sultanate can do as they please.”
“Even with all the legitimate documents in the world, there is no humane basis for the claim… because the Sulu Sultanate are essentially saying ‘we own you and the wealth of your land’ to the Sabahans. Anyone who agrees with this supports the thoughts of a tyrant and madman with no respect for the freedom and rights of others. There is no place for such barbarism in the 21st century,” he added.
“The Sulu Sultanate is obsolete; Sabah is a living and breathing land with its own history and people, and they deserve the right to choose who to govern them,” Brandon said.
Aszlan Selamat also of Kota Kinabalu, signed the petition because “Sabah is belong to (sic) Malaysia and I am a Malaysian.”
Regina Lim of Bath in the United Kingdom said “self-determination has a stronger merit than historical claim.”
Adam Chin, who is based in the Gold Coast of Australia, said Sabahans have “always been proud to be Malaysians.”
“Through the years we have become one with our brothers and sisters in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia. We have no social or political ties whatsoever with the so-called Sulu sultanate – a kingdom which no longer exists. The self-declared ‘Sultan of Sulu’ and his followers must realise that the Sulu claim on Sabah is a mere historical fact, not a basis for a legitimate claim in this modern era,” he said.
“I want those Suluk (Tausug) out from Sabah),” said Veinah Bebeh of Kota Marudu, Sabah.
“MY country. MY land. MY home. MY family. MY Malaysia,” wrote Victor Chong of Lahad Datu.
Ayub Karulus also of Lahad Datu, wrote: I ♥ My Hometown, I ♥ My Homeland, I ♥ My Home country.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)