By Mike Frialde (philstar.com)
Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines - Fighting between members of the Sultanate of Sulu's royal army and Malaysian forces that erupted over the weekend has triggered a "Kiram Spring," claimed a sultanate spokesman on Monday.
“This is the Sultanate Jamalul Kiram Spring. We are doing this in the name of the Filipino people,” said Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the sultan.
Idjirani claimed that as of Sunday night, Sandakan has also been placed under the “battle zone” with the “Battle of Samporna” at a stalemate.
Idjirani, meanwhile, denied reports that the royal army led by Agbimmudin Kiram is being aided by fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
He said the sultanate's army is being supported by Filipinos in Sabah who have experienced repression under the strict Malaysian rule.
“Kung tutulong ang MNLF, wala silang capacity na maglipat ng tao. Tumulong ang mga tao na pinahihirapan ng Malaysian authorities,” he said.
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The sultanate earlier announced that Filipinos enraged by a Malaysian raid on a religious leader’s house in Sabah retaliated Saturday night, attacking an army convoy and overrunning a district police headquarters.
Five Malaysian security officers were killed and four ranking Sabah officials were held captive by the Filipinos in Semporna, where the violence has spread from the coastal town of Lahad Datu, according to the Sulu sultanate. Kuala Lumpur confirmed only two police deaths.
Idjirani earlier described the escalation of violence as an “unorganized, spontaneous uprising” by Filipinos residing in Sabah.
He claimed that as of Sunday afternoon, armed followers of the Sultanate were in control of Semporna.
MNLF Islamic Command Council chairman Habib Mujahab Hashi said on Sunday that reinforcements from Mindanao also breached the Malaysian security cordon in Sandakan, another part of Sabah, and ambushed two truckloads of men belonging to the Malaysian Territorial Army Regiment.
Hashim, who said he was authorized by the Sulu sultanate to speak on the situation in Sabah, said the reinforcements used improvised dynamite or timbak isda for the ambush. The dynamite is normally used for blast fishing.
Up to 12 followers of the sultanate who holed up in Lahad Datu were killed by Malaysian security forces last week. The sultan’s army also killed two Malaysian policemen.
Meanwhile, Idjirani reiterated that the forces of Raja Muda Kiram woud only release the captured Sabah officials to representatives of international humanitarian groups.
Idjirani fears that if the captives are released to the Malaysian authorities, they might later end up dead and the Sultanate will be blamed for it.
Idjirani added that the situation in Sabah is now so volatile that many sectors are seeking to take advantage of it, including the Malaysian political opposition.
Satur supports Kiram
Former Bayan Muna party-list representative Satur Ocampo, meanwhile, expressed support for the Sultanate of Sulu as he called on the Philippine government to soften it’s stand and sit down with the Malaysian government to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in Sabah between Malaysian forces and the Sultanate’s Royal Army.
“Nananawagan ako sa gobyerno. Hindi nito dapat pinabayaan sa Malaysia. Dapat naging malawak ang pag-unawa ng gobyerno at magtuwid ng kamalian,” Ocampo told reporters at the home of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III at the Maharlika Village in Taguig City.
“Kung hindi magbabago ang position ng PNoy government ay lalawak ang armadong labanan sa Sabah,” Ocampo added.
Ocampo also lashed at the apparent slow response of the Philippine government to the swiftly-developing situation in Sabah, where some 200 forces of the Sulu Royal Army are still engaged in fighting with Malaysian authorities.
“Nangyari na ang bloodshed. Dapat nag-react na agad at 'di sinabing bahala na ang Malaysian authorities. Dapat naging mabilis ang aksyon ng gobyerno. Dapat baguhin ng Philippine government ang position nito at harapin ito ng tahasan,” Ocampo added.
Idjirani welcomed Ocampo's the support saying that it shows that the “twin nationalism” between Filipino Muslims and non-Muslims is still alive.
Idjirani said this “twin nationalism” was evident during World War Two when the Sultanate of Sulu allied itself with the United States in its war against Japan.