The Sultanate of Sulu and top Malaysian officials held exploratory talks last week over three key issues aimed at resolving the century-old Sabah issue, an official said Friday.
The issues were the 15-percent share of the Sultanate of Sulu in the Gross national Product of Sabah, power sharing in the state of Sabah, and the restoration of the Sultan of Sulu as Sultan of Sabah, said Sultan Abraham Idjirani, secretary-general of the Sultanate of Sulu.
He said the Malaysian officials were sent by Prime Minister Najib Razak to thresh out the pressing issues relating to Sabah, which for years had caused security problems for both parties.
Idjirani said the proposed 15-percent share in Sabah’s GNP was a new mechanism devised by the Sulu Sultanate to replace the rent on Sabah being paid to the sultanate, which is 5,300 ringgit or P67,000 a year.
Idjirani described the rent as diminutive and said the sultanate must share the income that Malaysia was earning in the oil- and gas-rich Sabah.
Informed sources said Malaysia was offering the Sultanate two options on Sabah: a possible lump sum payment or a higher rental fee.
When asked to comment, Idjirani said they would rather pursue the immediate resolution of the Sabah issue.
“If the GNP of Sabah is $100 billion annually, the Sultanate of Sulu... would get a hefty $15 billion for the same period—a major turning point that could spur massive socio-economic development in Mindanao,” Idjirani said.
He said of that amount, 5 percent would go to the Royal families of the Sultanate while the remaining 10 percent would be distributed equally to the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Zamboanga peninsula, Palawan and part of the Visayas.
“This matter would surely spur socio-economic development in those areas,” Idjirani said.
He said Malaysia should consider sharing Sabah’s GNP with the sultanate since it had benefited from Sabah’s natural resources for decades at the expense of the Sultanate of Sulu, which had sovereign rights over the island.
The other point raised by the Sultanate was the possible power sharing in the composition of the state assembly of Sabah, wherein Royal families and twenty eight ethnic groups in Sabah would be given seats.
Today, Idjirani said, Sabah’s state assembly had 57 representatives, and mostly from the ruling royal families of the federal state of Malaysia. If Malaysia accepted the proposition, that number could rise to about 100 assembly men in the state of Sabah.
“The inclusion of 28 ethnic groups, including the royal families of the Sultanate of Sulu, would equally represent all the ethnic groups in the Sabah assembly,” Idjirani said.
The third issue discussed was the restoration of the Sultan of Sulu as Sultan of Sabah.
“Since Sabah is the ancestral territory of the Sultanate of Sulu and was incorporated illegally by Great Britain into the federation of Malaysia, that title of Sultan has been removed, and in order to resolve the sovereignty of Sabah they should restore the Sultanate of Sulu as the Sultan of Sabah,” Idjirani said.