MANILA (4-Mar-2013) – Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that the Aquino administration should be held accountable as the ongoing standoff in Sabah has reportedly led to bloodshed after a firefight broke out today between Malaysian police authorities and the followers of Sulu Sultan Jumalul Kiram III who have been occupying a fishing village in the contested territory for more than two weeks now.
In a news conference, Princess Jaycel Kiram, daughter of Sultan Kiram III, claimed that at least 10 people died while four were injured during the exchange of fire between their armed followers and Malaysian forces. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), meanwhile, denied that there were casualties.
“The Aquino administration’s hard position against the Kirams and their followers, certainly contributed to the escalation of the standoff into a violent confrontation with the Malaysian forces. Instead of harassing and threatening the group of Sultan Kiram with prosecution, government could have helped end the impasse peacefully by first recognizing the legitimacy of the claim of the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate and help negotiate with Malaysia on how to find a diplomatic settlement of the standoff,” said Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo.
The Bayan leader said that the mishandling of the Aquino government of the issue has further pushed the group of Kiram to more desperation. “The Kirams have the legitimate right to press for their claim over Sabah. They are supported by solid historical and legal bases. Thus they are willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to assert their rights.
Unfortunately, Aquino administration’s outright dismissal of their assertion as a sort of nuisance, in particular in relation to the ongoing peace negotiations with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), has just fueled their sentiment of being neglected for decades by the national government,” Araullo said.
Bayan earlier accused President Benigno Aquino III of double standard in his handling of the Sabah standoff. “In stark contrast (with the Sabah issue) is the Aquino administration’s treatment of the Spratlys and Panatag Shoal dispute with China. No less than the head of state engages in open polemics on the territorial dispute at every available opportunity, domestic or international. It has even filed a case against China for international arbitration. Note that while we have strong grounds to assert our sovereignty over the Spratlys and Panatag Shoal, we have even more compelling historical and legal bases to claim Sabah,” Araullo said in a previous statement.
The group pointed out that double standard in handling the Sabah and Spratlys/Panatag Shoal issues is exposing the deceitful and sham “patriotism” of the Aquino administration. “It is aggressively engaging the territorial dispute with China not because of its patriotic duty to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity but rather to kowtow to US superpower interests. In reality, the puppet Aquino government is using the Spratlys/Panatag Shoal dispute to promote US imperialism’s hegemonic schemes in the region under the so-called “pivot to Asia Pacific”. It is using the dispute with China to justify the ever increasing presence of American troops, warships, jet fighters and drones, and other war materiel in the country’s territory under the auspices of the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement),” Bayan stressed.