UN, HRW urge Malaysia to ensure protection of civilians

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/09 March)— United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on Friday met with Malaysia’s permanent representative to the UN to reiterate his hope that the crisis in Sabah be resolved as soon as possible.

In a statement, the UN Information Center in Manila said the Secretary-General met with Hussein Haniff, Malaysia’s permanent UN representative, on Friday (US time) to discuss the Sabah issue.

“They discussed the recent developments in Sabah, Malaysia. The Secretary-General noted the efforts that were made by the Governments of Malaysia and Philippines to find a peaceful resolution to the situation,” the statement said.

“He reiterated his hope that the situation will be resolved as soon as possible, and that efforts will continue to be made to ensure respect for human rights and to avoid further loss of life,” it added.

The UN Secretary-General on March 7 called for an end to the violence in Sabah and appealed for a dialogue “among all the parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation.’

Ban also urged all parties to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and “act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards.”

Also on Saturday, Phil Robertson, Deputy Director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged all the parties to heed the call of the UN secretary-general.

Robertson also urged the Malaysian government to ensure the protection of all civilians and respect their human rights in the month-long Sabah crisis as the number of arrested Filipinos reportedly  rose to 79 and the death toll to 61.

“At this point, it’s critical that the Malaysian authorities ensure the protection of all civilians in the area, and allow humanitarian access for the provision of emergency assistance to those affected by the violence,” he said in a statement.

He stressed that the situation on the ground in the conflict zone in Sabah is still quite murky and the government of Malaysia should provide clear and accurate information on what has occurred.

“We’re concerned about the Malaysian government’s use of the Security Offenses Special Measures Act to detain reportedly more than 50 individuals, and call on the government to either charge them with a recognizable criminal offense or release them,” Robertson said

Agence France-Presse, citing the Malaysian police, reported that 79 Filipinos have been arrested as of Saturday.

Malaysia’s Star Online said that another “Sulu gunman” was killed in a shootout with state security forces at about 8 a.m. Saturday while attempting to slip through a security cordon at Kampung Tanjung Batu.

This brought the alleged deaths on the part of the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to 53, or a total of 61 including the eight Malaysian policemen.

Kiram’s followers landed on February 12 in Lahad Datu, Sabah to assert the claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu on Sabah, formerly North Borneo.

Clashes erupted on March 1 between Malaysian forces and the sultan’s men after the latter rejected the deadline to leave Sabah. President Benigno Aquino had asked them to withdraw and resolve the matter peacefully. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews