Sulu Sultan defies Philippine, Malaysian govts

The warning issued by President Aquino III to Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to recall his followers has fallen on deaf ears, as the four-day extension given by Malaysia for his men to leave Sabah expired last night.

Officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, have been meeting with Malaysian diplomats in Manila on how to end the standoff between Malaysian forces and the sultan’s followers, who are holed up in Tanduao village, Lahad Datu town.

A senior Filipino diplomat was also sent to Malaysia, to work closely with the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on how to help end the standoff, Sabah’s biggest security crisis in recent memory.

Aquino III had told Kiram III through a press conference yesterday morning that the “point of no return” hadn’t come yet but that it was fast approaching. In the late afternoon, the president said the sultan would face the “full force of the law” should he and his men refuse to stand down on the Sabah crisis.

Between 100 and 300 followers, about 30 of them heavily armed, of Kiram III sailed to Sabah in speedboats on February 9, to stake their claim to the disputed territory.

Historical records show that Sabah, now a state of Malaysia, once belonged to the Sultanate of Brunei, which gave it to the Sultan of Sulu as a gift in 1658. Malaysia pays a token annual rent for Sabah to the Sultanate of Sulu, which is now part of the basis of the claim.

Sulu is an autonomous island-province in southern Philippines’ Mindanao, home to Muslim minority.

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