A spokesman for the sultanate says there is no basis for Malaysia to file charges against eight Filipinos because it does not own Sabah.
MANILA: The Sulu Sultanate will sue the Malaysian government before the International Court of Justice in response to its filing of terrorism charges against eight of the sultan’s followers who were captured in Sabah, a crime punishable by death.
The spokesman of the sultanate, Abraham Idjirani, said their legal team was preparing to file a complaint of usurpation of authority and illegal development of natural wealth in Sabah against Malaysia.
“There is no basis for Malaysia to file charges against those eight Filipinos because it does not own Sabah. We are the rightful owners,” Idjirani said at the residence of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Taguig City.
This will be the third time the Sulu Sultanate will file a lawsuit against Malaysia. The first was filed in 1992 before the United Nations and the second was filed in 2004 before the International Court of Justice.
Idjirani said both cases were still pending because the ownership of Sabah had not been resolved.
Maintaining that the Malaysia’s move was illegal, Idjirani said the moves to file terrorism charges against the sultan’s followers violated the 1963 agreement signed by the heads of Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
The 1963 Manila accord states that “the inclusion of Sabah into the Federation of Malaysia will not prejudice the interest of parties concerned until the issue of the Sabah claim is finally resolved by the United Nations.”
“Malaysia is only an occupant of Sabah, so they have no right to file charges against those Filipinos,” Idjirani added.
He said the sultanate had no way to confirm whether the eight Filipinos were indeed members of the Sulu Royal Army that occupied Lahad Datu.
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said the government would help the eight Filipinos charged with terrorism and waging war in Sabah.
“It is our obligation to protect the rights of our citizens,” the President said.
Aquino said he had already instructed the Foreign Affairs and Justice Departments to give the Filipinos legal assistance.
Under Malaysian laws, terrorism charges carry a jail term of up to 30 years while waging war against the King is punishable with death.
A group of Sabah-based lawyers have also expressed their intention to help the eight followers of the sultanate.
The Sabah Law Association, in a report carried by the Malaysian press, said it was ready to ensure that the eight Filipinos are accorded due process.
Aquino earlier ordered an inter-agency team led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to come up with a roadmap to resolve the Sabah conflict peacefully.
Aquino said the Philippines was open to negotiating with Malaysia and embarking on a rules-based approach to resolve the Sabah claim similar to the case filed by Manila against Beijing to address the territorial dispute over Panatag Shoal.
The sultanate on Thursday slammed the Palace for dismissing an alleged assassination plot against the sultan and his family.
Idjirani said President Aquino should have at least ordered an investigation into the reported arrival in the country of the Malaysian hit squad to liquidate the sultanate officials.