Sultan declares ceasefire as UN Sec-Gen urges end to violence; Malaysia rejects truce offer

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 March) – Sultan Jamalul Kiram III  declared Thursday noon a unilateral ceasefire in Sabah, Malaysia in a bid to prevent further loss of  lives but Malaysia  rejected the truce offer and called on Kiram’s followers to surrender unconditionally.

“Do not trust the ceasefire offer by Jamalul Kiram. In the interests of the people of Sabah and Malaysia, destroy all the militants,” Defense Mister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, tweeted in Bahasa Malaysia, Malaysia’s The Star Online, reported.

The report said Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who visited Lahad Datu Thursday, told a press conference that Kiram’s men “must lay down arms and surrender unconditionally.”

Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the Sulu Sultan announced in a press conference in the residence of the Sultan in Taguig City, Metro Manila that, despite Malaysia’s rejection of its truce offer, “I would reiterate the decision of the Sultanate of Sulu to declare a cessation of hostilities.”

Kiram’s ceasefire declaration, announced in a noontime press conference in Taguig, Metro Manila on Thursday, came some three hours after Malaysia deployed its fighter jets anew to flush out Kiram’s followers from Lahad Datu in Sabah, and a few hours after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged an end to violence in Sabah and called for dialogue among all parties to peacefullv settle the problem.

The Secretary-General, the statement said, is closely following the situation in Sabah and “urges an end to the violence and encourages dialogue among all the parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation,” the statement read.

The Secretary-General also expressed concern about the “impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region” and urged all parties to “facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards.”

“As long as it takes”

In Lahad Datu, Prime Minister Najib told reporters that operations against Kiram’s men “will go on as long as it takes.”

He also announced that five battalions of Army and Police would be stationed in a special security area to secure the borders of the east coast of Sabah and reassured the Sabahans of their safety.

“Immediate steps will be taken to set up a temporary command centre in Lahad Datu,” the Prime Minister said.

Invoking the need to “safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the nation as demanded by the rakyat (people),” Najib announced in a statement morning of March 5 that aerial and ground attacks have been launched to flush out the “intruders” from Lahad Datu.

“As a peace-loving Muslim country that upholds the resolution of conflicts through negotiation, our efforts to avoid bloodshed were unsuccessful. Instead, our security forces were attacked and slain, while Malaysians especially those in Sabah fear for their safety,” the Prime Minister said.

“The government must take appropriate action to safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the nation as demanded by the rakyat (people),” he said.

Death toll

In Thursday’s press conference, Najib also said Malaysia would assert that Sabah is legally part of Malaysia.

“He also said that the question of whether Sabah was part of Malaysia should not arise as that has been determined legally as far back as 1878 and subsequently by the referendum conducted by the Cobbold Commission ahead of the formation of Malaysia,” The Star Online reported and quoted Najib as saying, “Do not underestimate Malaysia’s determination to maintain Sabah as part of Malaysia.”

Kiram’s group, led by his brother, Rajah Muda Agbiuddin Kiram, had sailed from Sulu and Tawi-tawi to Lahad Datu, Sabah on the second week of February and holed up there  until violence broke out on March 1.

Malaysian authorities claimed Kiram’s group, whom they have alternately referred to as “intruders,” “invaders,” and “terrorists,”  attacked first while Kiram’s group claimed Malaysian authorities attacked first.

The death toll since March 1 has reportedly reached 40, eight of them Malaysian policemen.

In Tagug, the Kirams maintained they lost 10 of its people and that four people have been injured while ten others are being held by Malaysian forces.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)