Sabah part of Malaysia but Filipinos can come as tourists, says Shafie

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal says Sabah’s position is recognised by the United Nations as well as the international community.

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has dismissed the latest claim on Sabah by a Philippine official, saying the state has always been part of Malaysia.

Shafie said there was no two ways about where Sabah stood after going through a referendum by the Cobbold Commission, established in 1962, to gather the views from the people of Sabah and Sarawak prior to Malaysia’s formation.

Saying that Sabah’s position was recognised by the United Nations as well as the international community, Shafie added that Filipinos were always welcome to Sabah – but as tourists.

“They can just speak louder and louder but the world knows about this. A referendum was done in 1962, when we were asked before the formation of Malaysia. I was there with my mother in my hometown Semporna when the Cobbold Commission came down, asking whether we prefer to be in Malaysia … all our forefathers, relatives were shouting ‘why not’.

“This is our country – Sabah is in Malaysia,” Shafie said to reporters at his office here today.

Putrajaya had, on Sunday, described as “unfriendly and harmful” a statement by Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, who restated the Philippines’ five-decade-old claim to Sabah.

Wisma Putra said Malaysia did not recognise and would never entertain any claim by any party on Sabah.

Locsin had reaffirmed the Philippines’ claim over Sabah at a congressional budget briefing last Wednesday.

Khalid Dimaporo, the representative for Lanao del Norte, had asked if the Department of Foreign Affairs had allocated funds for Sabah and if there was any plan or any budget for an embassy in Kota Kinabalu.

“We shall never have an embassy in Sabah. To even think of it is an act of treason,” Locsin told the House appropriations committee.

Shafie said Sabah’s position was quite clear following the referendum, adding he had reiterated the stand during his previous meeting with the Philippine envoy.

Asked if he saw any end to this issue, the Semporna MP said: “We will manage it because it is within our control. What is important for us is we know they are not Malaysians.

“If they want to come (to Sabah) they can come as tourists or workers but they have to have a permit.”