Charged in Sabah: seven more; total 15

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 April) – Seven more alleged members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo”  were charged in Sabah, Malaysia Monday for allegedly waging war and engaging in terrorism, the state-owned news agency, Bernama, reported.

The new charges brought to 15 the total number of alleged members charged for offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment in Malaysia.

Like the first batch of eight who were charged with these crimes under the Malaysian Penal Code on March 20,  the names of the seven charged on April 1, described by Bernama as “Filipino men from the southern Philippines” were not made available, only their ages – “between 20 and 63.”

“No plea were recorded from the men aged between 20 and 63 when the charges were read to them, first in Bahasa Melayu and then in Bajau and Suluk by an interpreter before Lahad Datu Sessions Court Judge Rajalingam a/l S.S.Maniam who acted as Magistrate at a makeshift court at the district police headquarters today,” Bernama reported on April 1.

Bernama said five of the seven are facing two charges, of waging war against the Yang DiPertuan Agong, under Section 121 of the Penal Code which carries the death penalty upon conviction, and joining a terrorist group, under Section 130KA of the Penal Code, which carries a life sentence and fine upon conviction.

One of the seven accused is facing four charges, under Section 121, 130KA and Section 130E of the Penal Code for  allegedly recruiting terrorists or participating in terrorism, which carries a maximum 30 years’ jail and fine upon conviction; and for allegedly harboring terrorists under Section 130K of the Penal Code which carries a life sentence and liable to a fine, or a maximum 20 years’ jail and liable to a fine upon conviction.

Another accused is facing one charge under Section 130KA of the Penal Code.

Sec. 121of Malaysia’s Penal Code provides that “whoever wages war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or against any of the Rulers or Yang di-Pertua Negeri, or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war, shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and if not sentenced to death shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 130 KA states that “whoever is a member of a terrorist group shall be  punished with imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to a fine.”

Section 130 E defines “harbor” as “supplying a person with shelter, food, drink, money or clothes; or, except by a person employed in a Government hospital, medicines, bandages, surgical dressings or any other form of aid to a person wounded; or arms, ammunition or means of conveyance, or assisting a person in any way to evade apprehension.”

Consular visit

A consular team from the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has visited and conferred with the first batch of eight suspects facing charges in Sabah, a March 31 press statement from the Embassy said.

The Embassy team, led by First Secretary and Consul Antonina Mendoza-Oblena and Director Renato Villa, “talked to the eight individuals at the prison facility in Tawau and inquired about their conditions” last Thursday, March 28.

The team also asked the detainees’ “places of origin and respective families” but the press statement did not say where they are from.

The eight detainees were charged with waging war against the king and terrorism, offenses in Malaysia that are punishable by death or life imprisonment.

They were identified as Atik Hussin Bin Abu Bakar, Basad H. Manuel, Habil Bin Suhaili, Holland Bin Kalbi, Thimhar Hadil Suhaili, Lin Bin Mad Salleh, Kadir Bin Uyung and Lating Bin Tiong.

Governors Abdusakur Tan and Sadikul Sahali of Sulu and Tawi-tawi last week said they would have the names of the eight checked, if they are residents of their provinces.

Mujiv Hataman, OIC Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said he would also have the names checked.

Asked if the eight were from Sulu, Tan told MindaNews in a text message Sunday evening: “I’m not really so certain but I think they are hot on the Orang Suluk” (Tausug).

Sahali sent no reply but Hataman on Monday said he still has no update on the identities of the eight. “Baka hindi tunay na names” (These may not be real names), he told MindaNews.

‘Only 2 Filipinos’

Princess Jacel Kiram, eldest daughter of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, brother of Raja Agbimuddin Kiram who led the “Royal Security Forces” in Lahad Datu in February,  told MindaNews last Wednesday that only two of the eight charged are Filipinos and that the two Filipinos – Holland Kalbi and Lin Salleh had been killed on March 1, the day violence broke out after a standoff  in Lahad Datu from February 12 to March 1.

“Ang dalawa namatay na po ito noong Friday March 1 massacre. Ginamit ang pangalan nila,” (These two were killed during the Friday March 1 massacre. Their names were used), she said.

She added that Kalbi, who was reported to have been paid by her father,  “is a relative of ours.”

“How can we afford to pay them eh we have to earn a  living nga on our own eh. Because it’s not him anymore. Ginamit lang ang pangalan (His  name was used),” she said.

Philippine Ambassador  to Malaysia Eudardo Malaya, was quoted in the press statement as saying it is a standing policy for the Philippine Government to “provide appropriate consular assistance to nationals in distress, whether or not we agree with their acts or advocacies.”

“We would like to ensure that their rights as accused are respected and that they have legal representation when court sessions resume on April 12, as promised by Malaysian authorities,”  Malaya said.

In its March 31 press statement, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said the March 28 consular jail visit was done after arrangements were made with the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General’s Chambers and Tawau prison officials.

“No other details were made available due to the sensitivity of the cases,” the press statement said.

But the statement noted that the Philippine Embassy “may find difficulty in extending consular assistance to Raja Muda Agbimuddin (Kiram) in light of revelations that he had acquired Malaysian citizenship.”

Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi told Malaysian reporters on March 23 that Agbimuddin is a Malaysian citizen who worked as a civil servant in Sabah, as an assistant district officer in Kudat under the administration of former Sabah Chief Minister Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun.

Mustapha was chief minister from 1967 to 1975.

The New Straits Times on March 24 quoted the Defense Minister as saying that Agbimuddin Kiram was “given Malaysian citizenship during Tun Mustapha’s time. However, I can’t say whether he is still a Malaysian citizen.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)