Deputy defence minister: Govt views seriously reports of new Sabah invasion plan

KUALA LUMPUR — News that southern Philippines officials and Sulu militia are allegedly planning an invasion of Sabah cannot be independently verified yet, Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz told Parliament today.

Padang Serai MP M. Karupaiya had interrupted Ikmal Hisham at the end of his ministerial winding-up speech, seeking the ministry’s response on the matter, which was reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) this morning.

“YB Padang Serai, I too read that earlier. Whatever it is, the news cannot be verified yet. So I cannot comment on what was reported.

“But I believe that for the government, any information and news, especially what was raised by Padang Serai, will be taken seriously,” he added.

According to the report by SCMP’s “This Week in Asia” section, the source claimed 19 locally elected mayors from the Sulu Archipelago met on December 1 to discuss sending a “Royal Sulu Army” of 600 men to invade Sabah.

Quoting the source, the report said that the meeting was arranged by a senior local government official in southern Philippines.

“The potential of the plan to attack Sabah coming to fruition depends on how much political support and funds it can get from various parties,” the report quoted the source as saying.

“Many stakeholders in the Philippines and abroad are willing to exploit this issue for their respective political and strategic interests.”

This time, the source said some 150 to 200 spies from Sulu were expected to be directed to Lahad Datu and Semporna — two key coastal towns where an invasion force might land and the firearms to be used by the soldiers will be buried in an undisclosed area beforehand.

He said that sleeper cells were in Sabah, with intelligence gathering and security stepped up in Sabah since the discovery of the Sulu meeting.

The plan comes nine years after the last Sulu Sultanate’s bid to “take back” the North Borneo territory after longstanding sovereignty issues failed to move ahead.

“The failure of the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate to obtain the consent of the Malaysian government to settle the proprietary rights over Sabah prompted the implementation of this plan,” said the source.

In February 2013, over 200 self-styled armed Sulu military invaded the east coast town of Lahad Datu at the behest of self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, and led by the Jamalul’s brother, Agbimuddin, whose family was seeking an ancestral claim over Sabah.

The Sultanate of Sulu used to rule over parts of the southern Philippines and Sabah, before the British government transferred Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.

The conflict, which lasted more than a month, resulted in the deaths of 68 men from the Sulu sultanate, nine Malaysian armed services personnel and six civilians.

According to the report, 11 of the 19 mayors who attended the secret meeting agreed to the plan while the rest sat on the fence, neither agreeing to nor rejecting it.

“Each mayor is expected to provide 50 men who are skilled and brave in battle. The cost of ammunition and other logistics is to be borne by the high-ranking official who also promised to contribute 500,000 pesos (RM42,120) to build 100 speed boats that will be used to attack Sabah,” the source said.

The source said that according to the plan, the local official was believed to have supplied 500 firearms to local representatives in Sulu who would then distribute them.

The Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research chairman Rommel Banlaoi also told the portal that the Royal Security Force of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo had around 20 to 30 regular armed services personnel but was capable of mobilising up to 500 Tausug armed men as force multipliers.

The Tausugs, one of the ethnicities from Sulu, are believed to still harbour revenge on Sabah.

Malaysia has never recognised the Philippines’ claims on the grounds that Sabah residents had exercised their right to self-determination when they voted to join the Malaysian federation in 1963.

However, it has since emerged that the Malaysian embassy in the Philippines had until 2013, issued annual cheques for RM5,300 to the legal counsel of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu in keeping with the terms of an 1887 agreement.

Sabah CM says didn’t receive any report of invasion

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Hajiji Noor speaks a press conference at the Sabah state administrative building in Kota Kinabalu September 29, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Hajiji Noor speaks a press conference at the Sabah state administrative building in Kota Kinabalu September 29, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KOTA KINABALU — Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor today said he has not received any intelligence report that militants based in the southern Philippines are planning to invade the Malaysian state next year.

He added that he has not read about the alleged attack as reported by Hong Kong daily, South China Morning Post earlier today.

“I have not received the relevant report about this so I cannot comment,” he said in his winding-up speech in the state assembly

Hajiji was replying to Moyog assemblyman Datuk Darell Leiking who asked if the state is aware of the planned invasion.