KOTA KINABALU: Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) says the federal government has issued contradictory statements over the Philippines’ claim on Sabah.
The party was responding to Foreign Minister Anifah Aman’s accusation that Warisan secretary-general Loretto Padua Jr was engaging in gutter politics when criticising the government’s stand on the Philippines’ claim.
Loretto had said Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s assertion at the Dewan Rakyat last week that the government was prioritising the threat of the Islamic State (Daesh) in the region over the Philippines’ claim on Sabah, showed that Putrajaya was taking the claim lightly.
Anifah responded by denying Loretto’s claim that the government did not want to conclusively resolve the claim made by the Philippines and urged the party to stop politicising the issue.
Crispin Kitingan, a special functions officer in Warisan’s Information Bureau, claimed that Anifah had taken out of context the statement made by Loretto, and insisted that Hishammuddin must explain in detail his statement which he made while answering a question from Warisan president Shafie Apdal.
“Anifah had said that the federal government is not entertaining the claim at all and that Sabah had been acknowledged by the United Nations as part of Malaysia,” Crispin said in a statement.
“But Hishammuddin’s answer gives us a different picture, that the federal government acknowledged the claim but the Daesh/IS threat takes precedence over it.”
It was, therefore, only natural, he said, for Loretto, as a Sabah political leader, to vent his frustration over Hishammuddin’s statement and lament that this long-outstanding claim was one of the reasons illegal immigrants from the southern Philippines were brave enough to sneak into Sabah.
“If the federal government is not entertaining the claim, then why did Anifah add in his same statement that the claim is an important issue?”
He claimed the statement issued by Anifah through Wisma Putra contradicted what Hishammuddin had said.
“He (Anifah) should clarify this instead of giving a half-baked statement and resorting to personal attacks against Loretto.”
Crispin, who is a brother of Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan, said Loretto had not engaged in gutter politics as claimed by Anifah but instead posed an important question.
Loretto had asked Hishammuddin if the bilateral effort by Malaysia and the Philippines to curb the threat by the IS would be jeopardised should Putrajaya dispute the claim on Sabah by the Philippines.
The question was important because China and the Philippines, who had been at loggerheads many times over their South China Sea territorial dispute, could still pursue a joint-effort to combat terrorism, with China delivering weaponry and being willing to conduct joint training with the Philippine army, Crispin said.
“Loretto’s question was, ‘why can’t Malaysia do the same thing’?”