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13 March 2013






The war in North Borneo ('Sabah' now changed by Malaysians) between the federal state of Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB) started with the peaceful visit of the Sulu Sultanate crown prince, Rajah Muda Azzimudin Kiram, some family members and Tausug civilian constituents to Kampung Tandou, a small village of ten houses 60 kms. from Lahad Datu, on February 9, 2013.

The younger brother of SSNB Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III, Rajah Muda Azzimudin and around 135 Tausug Muslims were escorted by a 20-member SSNB Royal Security Army in crossing the Sulu Sea up to the shore of the considered Sulu Sultanate homeland 'Sabah'. While some Tausug rahyat (constituents) were going back home as long time residents of Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, some joined the peaceful journey back home to the perceived Sulu Sultanate domain with the fondest thought of settling permanently in 'Sabah'. The Sulu Sultanate members and Tausug followers were just too conscious of the historical fact that North Borneo belongs to the SSNB leadership and people of Lupah Sug (Sulu), but only leased to a commercial British Company in 1878.

Despite the fact that North Borneo was leased on a permanent basis with the stipulated $5,000 (Mexican dollars) yearly rental by SSNB Sultan Jamalul Alam to a British Company represented by Gutavus Baron de Overbeck of Hong Kong and Alfred Dent of London on January 22, 1878, this did not prohibit the Sulu Sultanate family members and Tausug constituents from visiting, settling and departing from the SSNB ancestral homeland in their own discretion.

 However, the situation seemingly changed when the British government mysteriously annexed North Borneo to include it a part of the Malaysia federation given independence in 1957. The gross injustice was done without consulting the Sulu Sultanate, which holds the propriety right, and eversince protested against the dubious somewhat land-grabbing transaction.

 Driven by economic greed and megalomaniac arrogance forgetting to be Muslims, but acting plainly as plain Malays similar to the fallen Arab leaders in the contemporary period, the Malaysian government leaders under the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) justified the broad-daylight land-grabbing of the Sulu Sultanate homeland with a rigged referendum in 1963 and merely pursuing the payment of the annual rental amounting to $5,300 (Malaysian dollars) to the SSNB family heirs. Thus, the UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders have claimed eversince that 'Sabah' is under the sovereignty of federal Malaysia though how cosmetic and awkward it may be.  

 The Sulu Sultanate and Muslim Tausug constituents protested this gruesome injustice from the beginning. Authorizing the Philippine government under President Diosdado Macapagal in 1963, SSNB Sultan Ismael Kiram I in concurrence with crown prince, Rajah Muda Datu Punjungan Kiram, father of now Sulu Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III, and the members of the Ruma Betsara ('House of of Decission') filed a formal protest and legal claim to the Malaysian-occupied North Borneo territory with the International Court of Justice in Hague.

However, the official 'Philippine Sabah claim' was only activated during the time of the Macapagal administration and the succeeding Marcos government, which historically figured in the March 18, 1968 Jabidah massacre over the attempted clandestine invasion of 'Sabah'. But during the presidencey of Corazon C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo up to Benigno S. Aquino III, the 'Sabah claim' has had remained dormant. This mysterious circumstance has led some sectors, particularly the Tausug professionals and youth, to suspect that all the post-Marcos period Filipino presidents were bribed by the UMNO-led Malaysian government rulers with the yearly billion dollars income derived from  mineral and agricultural rich 'Sabah', except former President Joseph E. Estrada. It is common knowledge that the former Machiavillian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad hated the guts of President Estrada and Chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for patronizing and siding with the ousted former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was facing a frame-up charge based on sodomy manufactured by the Mahathir regime. He was later declared innocent and vindicated by the Malaysian court under Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi.

 Thus, on this development, the Sulu Sultanate under Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III and family heirs were compelled to revoke the authority given to the Philippine government. They decided to pursue the 'Sabah' ownership issue and valid claim on their own limited means and peaceful terms based on the principled legacy that the Sulu Sultanate Tausug constituents have a share to the North Borneo proceeds.


 The UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders have always with pride proclaimed that 'Malaysia is an Islamic state." This is even proudly reechoed by the present Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. But, as Muslims, how is it that they are evasive to peacefully resolve the 'Sabah' controversy with the once historically known 'Islamic Empire' (Sulu Sultanate) in early Southeast East Asia region? Why result to bribery and treating a fellow Muslim like a low mendicant begging for his moral share of ownership?

 As revealed by Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III, during the Philippine Ramos government, the Malaysian Mahathir regime attempted to put to rest the 'Sabah' issue by offering the Sulu Sultanate family heirs the amount of Two Hundred Fifty Millions U.S. dollars ($250,000,000). But the principled Sulu Sultanate ruler, who is always modest and proud in proclaiming himself the "poorest Sultan in the world", categorically rejected the offer as the amount was far down below the true value worth of 'Sabah' in contemporary period. Furthermore, he bewailed that not a single cent was meant and mentioned for the wholistic development of Sulu archipelago for the welfare of the Tausug people. Yet, it is common knowledge again to the learned Tausug constituents both residing in Sulu group of islands and inside 'Sabah' that the billions American dollar income from the oil-drillings and timber plantations in the Malaysian-occupied North Borneo have greatly helped develop the federal capital Kuala Lumpur and other poor Malaysian federal states. The UMNO-led federal Malaysian government officials had shrewdly schemed from the beginning that 'Sabah State' would only be entitled to three percent (3%) of its whole income and the rest is allotted for the central government.

 By this simple immoral implication, could this not also mean that the UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders from the time of Prime Minister Abduh Rahman Putra Alhaj up to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak have had benefitted handsomely by billion American dollars from mineral and agricultural rich 'Sabah'?

 Thus, it is no wonder then that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed could be the 'richest man in Asia' personally worth around '42 billions American dollars', according to Malaysia Chronicle,   

 Thus, could this be the hidden reason why the UMNO-led Malaysian government officials have become indignantly evasive and afraid to face the Sulu Sultanate owner claimants in the International Court of Justice? But could only afford to bribing some key Christian Filipino officials and offering only peanut-amount to the family heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.


 As said earlier, the peaceful visit to Kampung Tandou village in Lahad Datu could have just remained a pleasant series of visitation for the Sulu Sultanate family members and Muslim Tausug followers living inside and outside 'Sabah'.

 However, using the 'law of the jungle' that 'the mighty is always right' and invoking 'sovereignty', 'honor' and 'pride' prelude to a hotly-contested national election, the UMNO-led Malaysian government rulers turned it into a war event by using the full force of the Malaysian military over a majority Tausug Muslim civilians protected only by more than ten armed Sulu Sultanate Royal Security Army. The SSNB security force was intended only to protect the royal family members and followers from sea pirates.  Thus, the one-sided war event on March 1, 2013 in Kampung Tandou turned literally into a massacre characterized by the Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak massacre in Jolo island during the American colonial regime in the 1930s.  

 On that fateful day of Friday, March 1, ten Tausug Muslim defenders of the Sulu Sultanate historical legacy and one woman civilian with her 8-year old son were killed by around 3-batallion strong Malaysian commandos that sustained only two deaths and four injured after hurried retreat.

 Nonetheless, the massacre of the twelve Tausug wayfarers in Kampung Tandou enraged some supporters in Semporna to seek revenge by ambushing a convoy of Malaysian police force the following day of March 2, killing 8 policemen and wounding several others. The ambush event occurred while Rajah Muda Azzimudin Kiram and a reduced small group of followers were undertaking the mass burial rituals for the 12 martyred companions. Majority of the Tausug civilians in the group have left earlier for their respective residences in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna.

The two blood-letting incidents on March 1 and 2, the first bloody events ever to happen in 'Sabah' between the Malaysian military and defiant Tausug Muslims, gave the justification for the federal Malaysian government to transform 'Sabah' into a police garrison state, drumbeating an all out war or total surrender or face being wipe out. The Malaysian military mobilized five more battalion forces from all over federal states in augmenting the three battalion forces already stationed in Lahad Datu to conduct the major war offensive.

 On nightfall of March 4, the Malaysian soldiers evacuated all the villagers from Kampung Lumbin and Kampung Batu, which are within 17 kms. east of Kampung Tandou in Lahad Datu with Condor APCs.

 On the morning of March 5, about 7:00 a.m., Jet fighter planes RMAF F/A Hornets and Hawk 208s helicopter gunships screamed in over Kampung Tandou and dropped laser guided bombs, sending six large almost continuous explosions to be heard far away to the center district of Lahad Datu. This was followed by mortar bombardments on Kampung Tandou. While from the sea, around seven naval gunships guarded tightly the seashore area.

 After more than one hour of massive bombardments using the latest lethal weapons of mass destruction available to the Malaysian military arsenal, the 2,000 strong fighting force, comprising of army and police personnel, moved-in for the attack at about 8:30 a.m. They conducted house-to-house searches, but found the Sulu Sultanate crown prince and the few trusted remaining Royal Security Force nowhere in sight.

 Nonetheless, strange it may seem, for face-saving propaganda in justifying the massive war-footing preparation conducted on a vacated supposedly war zone, the Malaysian military had to dig up the mass graves of the Tausug Muslims killed earleir and presented a photo of it to the Malaysian controlled media as clear evidence ot its success. Worse, to prove further the supposedly overwhelming success of its military operation coded 'Ops Daulat', the Malaysian military came up with a surprise listing of more casualties of the Sulu Sultanate followers apprehended in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, totalling 32 deaths. The Malaysian military presented a photo for evidence, but the photo shown became a laughing stock in the international media when it was identified as the shame photo of the Patani rebels killed in the Thailand border by the Thai military soldiers.

 Lately, the Malaysian military has proudly announced that it has killed 52 Sulu Sultanate followers in the 'Sabah' war zone. How true? Nobody knows because no Malaysian or foreign media are allowed in the area of operation except in the town center to await only a press conference or media briefing arranged by the Malaysian authorities.                   


 On March 6, this year, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations (UN) called for a ceasefire, urging an end to the Malaysia-Sulu Sultanate war in Sabah and for the two parties to engage in a peaceful dialogue. The following day, the SSNB Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III declared a unilateral ceasefire at 12:30 p.m., urging Malaysia to reciprocate.

However, the Malaysian government altogether rejected the UN peace call, refused the entry of the International Court of Justice to assess the actual situation in Sabah and also denied assistance to the representatives of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to inspect the actual condition of both the Filipino workers and Tausug residents in the affected areas.

 Furthermore, the Malaysian authorities continued prohibiting both the local and foreign media to conduct their on fact-finding investigation of the 'Sabah stand-off, crisis and war'.

 Why? Apparently, the strict prohibitions were all done for a purpose because the Malaysian government has to conduct the stringest crackdown in 'Sabah' over the Tausug Muslim residents in the affected areas and in other areas, particularly Sandakan, Tawau, Kudat, etc. The Malaysian military in 'Sabah' was given the blanket authority to hunt and kill the supposedly Sulu Sultanate followers and supporters, including arresting, torturing and killing Tausug innocent male residents just to come up with the number of persons that originally accompanied the Sulu Sultanate family members to Kampung Tandou.


Given the license thus by the UMNO-led federal Malaysian government officials to kill every suspicious-looking residents in 'Sabah' and to hunt down the Sulu Sultanate followers everywhere for total liquidation, the Malaysian military conducted a massive operations in the villages thickly populated by long-time residents coming from Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan and even Zamboanga.

 After the villages, the Malaysian military conducted house-to-house search in bigger towns, like Sandakan, Tawau and Kudat, and just arrested any Tausug they could locate with or without proper documentary papers of stay. The Malaysian media reported on March 11 that 222 Tausugs have been arrested so far and the number could still increase

 Thus, when Malaysian military atrocities committed against innocent Tausug civilian residents began to spread like wild fire all over 'Sabah', the rush and panic desperation to flee and escape to Tawi-Tawi and Sulu followed. Some who have actually escaped from Sabah have recounted the horrible tales encountered by both innocent Filipinos and Tausug Muslims. A 32-year old Amira Taradji, who was too happy to reach Jolo, related the sad tale she witnessed, " they dragged all the men outside the houses, kick and hit them. They ordered Filipino men to run as fast as they could and shoot them."

 On one hand, some have decried the worst 'police brutality' they have encountered and witnessed in today's Sabah, outlining the whole tragic episode they have experienced with the remarks, "we are treated like animals" by the Malaysian military.


 In truth, the violent hostilities between the battalion-strong Malaysian military and the hundred-size followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo could have been averted had the Malaysian government showed its Islamic responsibilty to solve the crisis peacefully.

 The 3/1 Kampung Tandou massacre of 12 Tausug Muslims and succeeding atrocities committed by the Malaysian military against both the Filipinos and Tausugs, who are compelled to escape the declared war zone of Sabah, could not have happened at all if only the professed Muslim Malaysian leaders have a compassionate heart to solve the Sabah issue with the aggrieved party -- the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

 It is another issue, if the Malaysian leaders have not always proclaimed that 'Malaysia is an Islamic State' because it would save the trouble for the Muslim Tausugs of the Sulu Sultanate to pursue seeking justice related to the ownership of North Borneo ('Sabah'). But, the Muslim leaders of Malaysia, sad to say, have never displayed a Muslim heart in solving the Sabah controversy. They have had proudly paraded themselves as colonialist land-grabbers for many years justified by the measly M$5,300 yearly rental to the real owners - the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, and the Tausug Muslim constituents - without the slightest thought that the Divine One has ordained punishment and retribution for the greedy and criminals. How mighty and strong they may be in the mortal world!  

 The sad case of the Kampung Tandou tragedy is one defining point. Instead of directly engaging peace dialogue with the Sulu Sultanate Islamic leadership to diffuse the whole situation from the beginning, the UMNO-led Malaysian government leaders used the Philippine government to even threaten and arrest Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III. Truth to tell, the unIslamic attitude shown by the Malaysian government had only enflamed the volatile situation to reach a breaking point. That is exemplified now by the ugliness of war, killings and atrocities committed by the Malaysian military on the innocent Filipinos and Tausug Muslims.

 On this end, acting as Muslims, both the Malaysian government leaders and Sulu Sultanate rulers must invoke the Mercy, Guidance and Infinite Wisdom of Allah Almighty to help them find a peaceful solution to the worsening problem. Surely, peace and peace dialogue as ordained by Islam are the golden keys to the comprehensive solution to any conflict. -osm/mnlfnet.com



Related Articles:


The Sulu Sultanate

The Coming of Islam to Sulu

How Islam Came to Mindanao

The Maguindanao Sultanate

Speech of Pres. Quezon Declaring the Colonization of the Bangsamoro Homeland Mindanao



Why Did Quezon Commonwealth Regime Design Eclipsing Bangsamoro Sultanate?








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