Friday, February 15, 2013

Sabah standoff places Malacanang into a itchy bind

There is an ongoing standoff between Malaysian forces and about 100 heavily armed men believed to be militants which came from Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. These militants, who described themselves as members of the Royal Army of the Sultan of Sulu refuses to leave the area. Malaysian officials told these militants to peacefully leave the area to avoid bloodshed. However, the standoff continues, as the gunmen refuse to move out of the vicinity, claming that they have the right to stay there.

INstead of campaigning for his Senatoriables, President Aquino should attend to this matter very carefully because this can make or break the economic momentum of the country. An external problem such as this, and highly explosive at that, should be solved immediately by the President either through back channelling efforts and thru diplomatic means.

Actually, the President cannot do it diplomatically because this is a criminal act according to Malaysian laws. If the President intervenes, and uses the power of the State to negotiate, what would be his bases for doing so? The intrusion of this group into Malaysia does not involve the participation of the State. It was an extra-legal move coming from individuals who claims to have the authority to do such a thing. The group is claiming legitimacy. Malaysia refuses to recognize the validity of the claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sabah. While the present heir seems to have gotten legitimacy from numerous groups from Mindanao and beyond.

If someone would ask me if this is the appropriate time to re-claim Sabah, my answer is a definitive no. We should be able to substantiate our claims in the area. Likewise, claiming this side of Malaysia would entail more than physical intrusion. It would mean convincing the population of Sabah to side with us. Those who want Sabah should consider the sentiments of those living in the island of Borneo.