The Sulu Sultanate on Thursday said President Benigno Aquino’s refusal to raise the Sabah conflict in the upcoming meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations only proved that there was indeed a collusion between the Philippine and Malaysian governments to cover up the issue.
Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Malacañang’s tepid response on the issue was an indication that Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak are hiding something.
“There is a concerted effort between Malacañang and the office of the Malaysian Prime Minister to really cover up the Sabah issue. Hundreds of Filipinos in Sabah have been abused by the Malaysian armed authorities and yet President Aquino doesn’t want to bring it to the attention of Asean,” Idjirani said.
The Sultanate spokesman claimed that Aquino and Najib were discreetly discussing the issue on a personal level and obviously not wanting to engage other Asean leaders to peacefully resolve the conflict.
Citing Aquino’s tight schedule, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday that the Philippines will not bring the Sabah issue to the 22nd Asean meeting to be held on April 24 in Brunei.
Instead, Aquino will push for the implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea to address the country’s territorial dispute with China, according to Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez.
“People are very busy and this is actually a very short summit and not like the one that we had last November,” Hernandez said.
But Idjirano insisted that Aquino does not want Asean leaders and the Filipino people to know the truth behind the Sabah problem.
He added that the sultanate’s claim on Sabah is also a regional issue that should be tackled by Asean leaders.
Idjirani said that they will continue to exert efforts to meet with Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah even after failing to get an audience with him during his state visit in Manila early this week.
“We will still continue writing the government of Brunei stating categorically the position of the Sultanate on the Sabah issue,” he said.
He added that the Sultanate also plans to pursue its plan to send a delegate in Brunei to bring the matter to Bolkiah.
Had the meeting between Bolkiah and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III pushed through, idjirani said Kiram would have explained to Bolkiah in detail why the sultanate had to send forces to Sabah and recount how Malacañang treated the crisis since Day One.
The historical ties between Brunei and the Sulu Sultanate dated back to the 1660-1673 Brunei Civil War when Sultan Muhyiddin, the 14th Sultan of Brunei, sought the help of then Sulu Sultan Bada Udbin, who sent forces to Brunei which helped repel the troops led by Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin.
As a sign of appreciation, Sultan Muhyiddin rewarded the sultanate the eastern Sabah as an honorary gift.
The sultanate had insisted that Sabah was only leased to Malaysia when it gained independence in 1963.
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