I AM so glad that the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim visited the Republic of the Philippines.
And I am looking forward to writing about a return visit by the Republic’s President to Malaysia in the near future. He may bring with him good tidings. Who knows?
The fact that Anwar was conferred a doctorate by a prestigious university of the Philippines means that the two neighbouring countries are having a good rapport – a precious prelude to all possibilities in terms of cordial relationship from now on.
Hopefully, this relationship would last at least during the tenure of office of each of the leaders.
Often with the change in governments’ different leaders in charge, they have different ideas of their own on how to go about dealing with each other. Change brings change, which may not necessarily be good to both parties.
Sensible people of both countries, give our leaders (both of the Philippines and of Malaysia) the time and the space they need. I see that there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel as both leaders seem very keen to engage each other. Our diplomats will take the cue from there – they may finally get that ridiculous Sabah claim sorted out.
At this stage, we can say that the claim as pursued by the eight individuals has failed in terms of legality, but there is no end to it being used as a political campaign material for all and any future election in the Philippines. That is normal; politicians use all sorts of tactics to gain support for their own causes.
I have noticed that President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr has not mentioned the claim since he assumed power at the Malacanang. No word about the Sabah claim. No word about the Philippines renouncing the claim, either.
What is still irritating is the relentless pursuit by some Spanish bush lawyers who keep on ‘arbitrating’, even after the courts in France and Spain have ruled out that the whole process is illegitimate and must stop. Malaysia’s lawyers in Spain and France have instituted proceedings for contempt of court for the self-styled arbitrator.
We shall await the result of this move. If the result is in our favour, the many heirs of the Sulu Sultanate might eventually realise that their multi-billion pesos claim is just air. Could still be used for political ammunition, of course.
It is with the Philippines’ authorities that we must deal openly, while quietly approaching a few intelligent people in that autonomous region of the Republic.
Is there something we can do to help in terms of economic projects, to give the population a chance to work for their living, not claim millions from a neighbour?
In doing this, the developers must respect the rights of the indigenous peoples there, provided that they had no hand in the invasion of Lahad Datu in 2013. Read the history of the region.
There are many other Filipinos around Mindanao who disagree with the action taken by these ‘heirs’. They just want to live peacefully in areas where they can survive, fish and farm, and pursue their traditional way of life.
All they want is to move freely from their homes in the southern part of the Philippines to Sabah, and for Sabahans to continue trading with them.
If both the governments of Philippines and Malaysia wish to solve the Sabah claim, do not forget about planning for those ordinary Filipinos of the region. These people have blood ties.
Do not use the word ‘repatriation’. To separate those Filipinos who had come to Sabah with genuine intention to live there (such as joining family members who had settled earlier before Malaysia) and those who came under the auspices of ‘Projek IC’, is not impossible – if there is the political will to do so. Both governments would have to work out a scheme whereby this idea can be tried out.
Who are the genuine settlers, and who came to Sabah under the auspices of Projek IC?
I guarantee everybody in the ‘kampongs’ (villages) knows!
These Filipinos should be given financial incentives or land to rejoin their families if their future is secure there. This exercise may be carried out if there is a will on the part of each country to settle a festering problem. Draw up an agreement or protocol that legitimises the exercise, but do not call it repatriation.
And issue identification papers for those who are not original Sabahans. Employ these non-Sabahans in the industries and the plantations, for limited time periods. That would partly solve the labour shortage.
The exploitation of untapped resources of the region must also benefit the people in the region.
The economic development of resources is most important, and Malaysia should invest in these ventures.