By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
The country’s historical claim to Sabah would be compromised if a government’s proposal to open a consulate in its capital city Kota Kinabalu comes through, said Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. who called the plan an act of “treason.”
Locsin said this plan of some “jerks” in government would effectively recognize Malaysian sovereignty over Sabah, on which the Philippines has a longstanding claim.
The plan was in fact raised by a senior official of the Duterte administration, Mindanao Economic Development Authority (MDA) Sec. Abul Khayr Alonto, a Duterte appointee.
Alonto informed Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal recently of the plan to open a Philippine consulate in Kota Kinabalu to assist undocumented Filipinos there, as well as resolve the issue of stateless children.
But the plan would also leave it to the Malaysian Foreign Ministry to convey the message that Sabah was an independent entity within Malaysia and that the Philippines should drop its claim on Sabah.
Locsin said the proposal smacks of treason since the Philippines had a standing claim over Sabah. “There is a proposal to open a consulate in Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, which effectively recognizes Malaysian sovereignty over Sabah. That’s treason,” Locsin said in a tweet.
“Just keep your eyes on what Filipino officials, politicians do with our Sabah claim. That is all that counts,” he said.
President Duterte previously declared his intentions to pursue the country’s claim on Sabah. It generated political support from Muslim groups in Mindanao who believe Sabah should be included within an independent “Bangsamoro” region.
Followers of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III from Sulu arrived on Feb. 11, 2013 by motorboat in Sabah and entered a town in Lahad Datu that surprised the Malaysian and Philippine governments and resulted in conflict with Malaysian security forces.
The group said they have claims over Sabah, citing numerous historical accounts and rental receipts from the Malaysian government.
Malaysian security forces and around 200 Filipinos were locked in a weeks-long standoff in the isolated coastal village.
The group led by the sultan’s brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin pressed their ancestral claim to an area of northern Borneo that has been disputed by Malaysia and the Philippines since independence.
The Philippine and Malaysian governments urged the estimated 200 Filipinos, some of them armed, in Lahad Datu, Sabah to return to their homes and families.
On March 1, 2013, Malaysia declared the standoff between the followers of Kiram and Malaysian authorities in Sabah was over with the arrest of his ten supporters and wounding of four others in his group.
Two members of the Malaysian police were killed and one was wounded when the police vehicle was fired upon by Kiram’s group.
The Kirams claimed 10 of the Sultan’s followers were killed while four were wounded, contrary to the pronouncement of Malaysia that it wanted a peaceful solution to the standoff.
Ignoring the Philippines’ request for Malaysia to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with the remaining members of Kiram’s group in Sabah, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on March 5, 2013 that Malaysia conducted air strike.
After calling for an end to violence in Sabah, then United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon met with Malaysia’s representative to the world body and reiterated his call and asked for continuing efforts to ensure respect for human rights and avoid loss of life.
Kiram declared a unilateral ceasefire in response to Ban’s call.
Although Malaysia rejected a ceasefire, Kiram declared a “cessation of hostilities.”
On the Philippines’ claim to Sabah, Locsin said: ““Let it sit but don’t put it on a grocery shelf like some people want and sell it. Over my dead body…”