PETALING JAYA: A long-standing battle over the Sulu claim will end when Malaysia obtains an annulment of an arbitration award to the self-proclaimed descendants of the last Sultan of Sulu, says law and institutional reform minister Azalina Othman Said.
She said Malaysia is in the process of obtaining the annulment at the Paris Court of Appeal.
“With this annulment, the basis of the claims would cease to exist and the government’s long-standing battle against the Sulu claim will come to an end,” she said in an address to an international arbitration conference in London today.
“This is not only in Malaysia’s interest but also in the interest of other nations, the international community of arbitrators, businesses, investors and third-party litigation funders,” she said in her speech. The conference has the theme “State Sovereignty and Immunity in Commercial Arbitration”.
She said Malaysia called for a review of the conduct of arbitrators and for oversight of third-party litigation funders, including exploring transparency and disclosure obligations by the relevant parties.
“We firmly oppose any abuse of the arbitration process, including forum shopping,” she said.
The so-called Sulu heirs had obtained an arbitration award requiring Malaysia to pay nearly US$15 billion to the claimants, but the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in June that the arbitration court did not have jurisdiction in the case.
Azalina had said this decision implied that the Paris appellate court would subsequently annul the award.
The Sulu claimants pursued the matter after Malaysia discontinued annual payments of RM5,300 to the descendants of the Sulu sultan in 2013, after an armed group landed in Lahad Datu to pursue a claim of sovereignty over Sabah.
A legal firm in London, representing a group of nine people based in the Philippines, filed a series of suits against the government following a US$15 billion arbitration claim that it obtained through a Spanish arbitrator.
Malaysia challenged the arbitration order in France and Spain and a French court granted a stay order on the award, pending a decision on Malaysia’s claim that the order infringed its sovereignty over Sabah.