CONTEMPORARY MALAYSIA

con·tem·po·rar·y - Modern times in its generic sense, living, occurring, or existing, at the same time; often also used as a synonym for "modern" Ma·lay·sia - A country of southeast Asia consisting of the southern Malay Peninsula and the northern part of the island of Borneo.

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Kota Kinabalu: The claims and counter claims by the "heirs of the Sulu Sultanate" took an interesting turn with all of them stating that they are no longer interested in pursuing the so-called claim on Sabah.

However, while they said they are prepared to surrender their so-called rights over Sabah for a lump sum compensation, one of the more vocal claimants who is not among the nine said he had already withdrawn his claim.

Rodinood Julaspi Kiram II, who claims to be the closest heir to the sultanate, in a statement through his "Executive Secretary and Keeper of the Royal Seal", Dato Seri Putra Eddy T. Sulaiman, Tuesday, confirmed that he has withdrawn his claim altogether.

Previously he had announced to the international media during his "coronation" in Manila a demand for US$20 billion (then RM75 billion) from the Malaysian Government "in order for him to drop the claim."

However, he said he has decided to abandon this claim for good after carefully considering the many implications, which are not conducive to good relations between Malaysia and the Philippines.

"What is important now is the establishment of good relations between the Sultanate of Sulu and the government of Malaysia for mutual benefit. I feel that the Philippine Government should also drop the longstanding, off and on, claim on Sabah as it has been a thorn in the flesh in the relationship between the Philippines and Malaysia.

"What we need now is to move on, to promote harmony, peace and socio-economic developments within the context of Asean, and focus on better diplomatic relations between the two countries. I also strongly feel that we need to act on the social development needs of Sabah and Sulu," he said.

"As someone who has a long and close association with Sabah, I have a strong desire to contribute towards the Malaysian Government for the long-term social development of the people of Sabah with whatever capability I have in the near future."

He said Rodinood is currently in Hong Kong on business and is expected to come to Malaysia next month.

Meanwhile, a "chief negotiator" of the other "nine heirs", Datu Omar Ali Datu Haji Backtiyal, claimed all nine "who are receiving the annual RM5,300 cession money from the Malaysian Government are prepared to surrender their rights over Sabah."

Omar said he had worked hard to get all the nine, who are supposedly recognised by Manila and Kuala Lumpur as the truthful heirs, to co-sign the agreement.

"They are agreeable to surrender their rights once and for all as well as for a lump sum payment of the cession money," he told a press conference, here, Tuesday.

Omar said he managed to get the signatures last year, following advice from former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who, he claimed, asked him to get all the nine to agree before the Malaysian government could enter into a negotiation process.

However, he said after getting the nine heirs to agree, he was unable to get the Malaysian Government to talk.

"It has been a year and still there is no response from the National Security Council and the Prime Minister's office," he said, adding he was worried that the heirs would change their mind.

According to him, the heirs of the late Sultan Mohamat Jamal Al Alam were those named in the Mackaskie Civil Suit 1936 (Dayang Dayang Hadji Piandao Kiram of Jolo Philippines and Eight Others Vs the Government of North Borneo).

He said one of the heirs was Esmail Kiram II is in Sabah for a visit.

Omar said he is a Malaysian and he took the initiative to find a way to resolve once-and-for-all the lingering doubts on Sabah's sovereignty.

"There are still doubts as to why the Malaysian Government is still paying RM5,300 to the heirs," he said, adding that he feared the incident in 1968 that resulted in the Bangkok Talks between Manila and Kuala Lumpur might be repeated. At that time, he said Manila used a ploy to claim Sabah by getting the Crown Prince of the Sulu Sultanate to sign an agreement to hand over the rights to Sabah.

However, he claimed, the ploy did not work as it turned out that the reigning King, Sultan Muhamad Amilrul Ombra Amil Bangsa (1936-1968) who is the husband of Dayang Dayang Piandao, was still alive and never agreed to the plan. It resulted in the failure of the Bangkok Talks, he said, adding that nonetheless such scenario could be repeated if the heirs surrendered the rights to Manila.

"We appeal to the Malaysian government to open the channel of communication and negotiate with the heirs," he said.

Meanwhile, Esmail Kiram II in a Press conference here proposed a mechanism for a joint-undertaking to resolve the refugee and illegal immigrant issue in Sabah with the Sabah State and Federal government of Malaysia. He also supported Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman's call for the setting up of a Philippine Consulate in Sabah as one of the ways to resolve the problems in Sabah and speed up the deportation process of illegals.

He hoped he would be included as a panel member of the committee to address illegal immigrants in order to assist in handling the problem. At the same time, he also proposed a liaison office in Zamboanga, Mindanao to do profiling of the deportees from Sabah.

Esmail said he was also still waiting for the response from the Chief Minister's office and Prime Minister to meet and discuss the proposal with them.