PNoy took wrong tack on Kirams, says analyst

Posted at 03/05/2013 7:59 PM | Updated as of 03/05/2013 7:59 PM

Kiram group only wants attention, not war, says UP Prof. Wadi

MANILA -- Professor Julkipli Wadi, dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies in University of the Philippines Diliman, on Tuesday called the advisers of President Aquino on the Sabah conflict "newbies" because of the way they're dealing with the Sulu Sultanate as well as the crisis in Borneo.

Speaking with radio dzMM, Wadi said all presidents, except Aquino, gave their full support to the Sultanate of Sulu's claim on Sabah.

He also noted that the current administration seems to have shifted its stance on the Sulu Sultanate and its claim on Sabah.

"'Yung pattern ng polisiya ng iba't-ibang gobyerno simula ng panahon ni President Diosdado Macapagal ay full support sa posisyon ng Sulu sultanate [sa claim over Sabah]," Wadi told radio dzMM Tuesday morning.

"Dito lang medyo nagkaroon ng reversal, ano. Kaya maraming nagulat, bakit parang siguro masyadong bagito 'yung mga kaibigan natin diyan sa Malacañang, 'di masyadong kalaliman 'yung appreciation nila ng issue," he added.

Over 200 followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, led by his brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, have been holed up in Sabah since February 12 in a bid to strengthen the sultanate's claim on the territory.

Clashes between Malaysian troops and the Sulu royal army, which began last Friday in Lahad Datu and spread to Semporna the following day, have claimed at least 30 lives.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Tuesday morning ordered an assault in Kampung Tanduo village after followers of Kiram still showed no intention to leave Sabah.

'Positive negotiation' needed, not threats

Recalling the "positive" developments on the Sabah dispute during the time of former President Fidel Ramos, Wadi said the Malaysian government was already close to settling the sultanate's proprietary claim over Sabah.

"Ang condition lang ng Malaysia noon, dapat mag-unite 'yung mga claimants kasi mahirap naman ang lagay ng Malaysia, sa dami ng claimants na kung sinu-sino [ang nagsasabing] dapat tumanggap din kami ng lease money," he said.

He said the current administration should have just carried on with the methods taken by Ramos and continued to engage the sultanate through "positive negotiation."

"Ang problema, hindi natuloy 'yun. Sana binalikan 'yun ng administrasyon ngayon. 'Yung ganung mga klaseng positive steps na nangyari para tuluy-tuloy 'yung parang positive negotiation tapos hindi umabot sana sa ganitong malagim na pangyayari."

He added: "Kailangan talaga ng masusing pag-aaral at mas paigtingin 'yung diplomasya, 'yung ugnayan ng dalawang bansa. At siguro, itaas na 'yung engagement to the highest level of diplomacy kasi 'di na 'to ordinaryong security issue."

Wadi also said it was a wrong move to tell Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III that the government is already reviewing the sultanate's claim over Sabah, but then say that it was studying what criminal charges to file against his followers in Sabah.

"Sino ba naman ang pumunta doon tapos uuwing luhaan. Pagdating dito ikukulong, maghihimas ng bakal sa preso," Wadi said.

"Eh 'di nandun na rin sila, mas gusto pa nilang mamatay na may pinaglalaban sila," he added.

Kirams only want attention

The Sultanate of Sulu had repeatedly said its royal army will not leave Sabah unless a formal agreement recognizing its claim, brokered by Manila, is reached with Kuala Lumpur.

Aquino, on the other hand, said he will only engage Kiram in a dialogue after his followers, some of them armed, return to the Philippines.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas also likened Kiram's request to a hostage-taking incident.

Wadi said Kiram's followers trooped to Sabah not to wage a war against Malaysia but only to call the attention of both the Philippine and Malaysian governments.

"Kung ang pakay talaga ng Kiram group sa pagpunta sa Sabah ay maglunsad ng giyera, sa tingin ko hindi lang dalawangdaan ang dadalhin nilang tao dun," he said.

He added, "The Tausug can amass hundreds, or possibly thousands, of high-caliber weapons kung ang pakay nila ay giyera."

Malaysia respects Tausugs

Wadi also said Malaysia does not want any bloodshed, noting that it is not used to engaging in wars against other countries.

He added that Malaysians also have "high regards and praises" for Tausugs. "Ang alam natin, mataas ang respeto nila sa mga Tausug."

"Ang Malaysia, wala siyang karanasan ng giyera... Wala siyang karatig-lugar o bansa na nagkaroon siya ng giyera," he said.