SULTAN OF SULU DECRIES ALLEGED PALACE EXTRADITION PLAN
 


Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, JUNE 17, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Niña P. Calleja, TJ A. Burgonio - The camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Monday accused Malacañang of secretly plotting to surrender the sultan and his followers to Malaysian authorities, citing the previous extradition of Moro leader Nur Misuari from Malaysia as a precedent.

The sultanate’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, warned that the move would likely trigger “violent results in Mindanao.”

“It would mean deception on the part of the government which had signed a peace deal with our Muslim brothers just recently,” Idjirani said.

At a news conference at their home on Monday, Princess Jacel Kiram, daughter of the sultan, told reporters the supposed government plan to extradite Kiram and his followers was going to happen soon.

“(All) has been quiet on the Sabah issue for some time until an insider informed us that the government plans to turn us over to the Malaysian government,” Jacel said.

She said the extradition would have no legal basis since those to be extradited should be facing charges in another country, which at this moment they are not.

Despite the absence of an extradition treaty with Malaysia, the government may use the case of Moro National Liberation Front Chairman Nur Misuari who was extradited from Malaysia to the Philippines in 2001 as a precedent, Jacel said.

Malacañang, however, advised the camp of the sultan to stop speculating about their extradition to Malaysia in connection with the Sabah crisis in February.

“That’s just a claim,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a Malacañang briefing. “Let’s wait for an official statement from us. I don’t want to dignify any statement coming from the Kirams.”

Lacierda also refused to comment on how the country could apply the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Malaysia to extradite the Kirams. He said he didn’t want to speculate on a statement from Kiram.

The Sabah crisis was triggered by the incursion of Crown Prince Agbimuddin Kiram, the sultan’s younger brother, and armed followers claiming to be members of the Royal Sultanate Army into Lahad Datu town in Sabah in February to assert their historical claim to the disputed territory.

More than 70 killed

The ensuing fighting killed more than 70 people, mostly Kiram’s followers, and sent thousands of undocumented Filipinos fleeing Sabah.

But the camp of the sultanate claimed that 1,600 men, 80 percent of whom were armed, were still in Lahad Datu and waging “guerrilla warfare” against Malaysian forces.

The Kirams earlier welcomed the Philippine government’s plan to file charges against them for conspiring to instigate the Sabah incursion.

Jacel said the Kirams were willing to face the charges in the Philippines even if it was obvious that Malacañang was singling them out.

“The government was not able to help us in our fight to recover what’s ours and now they want to give us up to those who occupy our territory,” Jacel said.

Idjirani said that turning them over to Malaysia would mean the government was giving up the country’s longstanding claim to Sabah.

“What we worry about is after creating a peaceful environment in Mindanao, there will be radical and violent results because of their plans. The Muslim community might be divided once again,” Idjirani said.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) chair Martin Dino expressed support for the Kirams, saying the issue of Sabah should be resolved peacefully.

“We are saddened by the information about this extradition. It would be opposed to what this government is pushing for,” Dino told reporters.

Comprehensive study

After violence erupted between Malaysian forces and Kiram’s followers in March, President Aquino tasked key Cabinet members to conduct a comprehensive study on the centuries-old claim of the sultanate to Sabah.

Lacierda said he had yet to confirm from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima if Mr. Aquino had been furnished a copy of the National Bureau of Investigation’s report on the incident.

“Wait, there is an investigation, and I am not privy to the investigation report itself or what the content is,” he said over the possibility of conspiracy in the incursion. “So I cannot speculate on the content of the report.”

As violence escalated in Sabah in early March, Mr. Aquino spoke of the alleged involvement of the Arroyo administration in the conspiracy, and said that cases were being “built up” against the culprits.

Former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, former Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco and his wife Margarita, and the Moro National Liberation Front were implicated as financiers of the Kirams’ incursion into Sabah. But they strongly denied this.

The President indicated that the Kirams and the conspirators would face charges later.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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