Sunday, February 24, 2013

PH sends ship to Sabah to fetch sultan’s followers

The Philippine government is set to dispatch a humanitarian ship to Lahud Datu to pick up the 155 civilians who sailed to Sabah with the royal army two weeks ago.

A well-placed Philippine Daily Inquirer source said the ship was set to leave Sunday night.  Malaysia was sticking to its Sunday deadline for Filipino Muslims from Sulu who had “occupied” Sabah, to leave the region.  (Editor’s Note:  The Philippine Daily Inquirer is correcting its earlier post indicating another 48-hour deadline extension from Sunday because the Malaysian government was keeping its Sunday [Feb. 24] deadline.)

“The clock is ticking away for the Sulu armed group holed up at the Tanduo village as the Sunday deadline draws near with no sign of them giving up peacefully,” the Star reported on its website

The report was posted at 12:10 p.m. on Sunday.

“The earlier Friday deadline was extended by 48-hours after the Philippines government requested for a four-day extension till Tuesday on the grounds that Manila was trying to persuade the Sulu group to give up their stand,” the report said.

The report prompted a senior Philippine diplomat to lament the “irresponsibility and recklessness” of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu in the dispatch of a group of an estimated 180 Muslim-Filipinos to Lahad Datu, with some 30 of them armed.

The diplomat requested anonymity as only the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was authorized to release statements at this point.

For the diplomat, the stubborn order of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III for his brother and their followers to stand down in Sabah showed their family’s “irresponsibility and lack of concern for civilian lives.”
The diplomat noted that the Kirams sent “women and unarmed civilians to Lahad Datu.”

“If there is a forced deportation, have they thought of what will happen to the civilians, some of whom joined up after being promised lands in Sabah?” the diplomat said.

The diplomat also said that the group’s claim of having peaceful objectives was “illogical and irrational,” given the fact they were escorted by armed men and they intruded into a neighboring country.

“If there is bloodshed, it would be on the Kiram’s hands and not on government’s,” the diplomat said.
“With their quixotic and reckless move, they have placed at risk not only the Mindanao peace process but also the overall peace and security situation in Mindanao, which all Filipinos have worked and hoped for and Filipino-Muslims have long deserved,” the diplomat added.

Kiram had said that his brother and their royal army would remain in Lahad Datu. In a press conference Friday, Kiram’s wife, Princess Fatima Cecilia Kiram, said that their family would like to negotiate the Sabah claim with Malaysia and settle the dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the United Nations.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (February 24, 2013 9:23PM)

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