What is going on in Lahad Datu?

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For the past one month, news portals have been buzzing with news of Lahad Datu. Along with the facts, there are many rumours circulating that Malaysia is at war. To clear things up, we have compiled a timeline of activities that has been happening since day one at Lahad Datu. This timeline will be updated as often as possible with facts from various valid news portals in Malaysia. We would like to advise readers to refrain from gathering information from the social media as facts. More often than not, these “facts” are fabricated.

On the 11 of February 2013, a group of local fisherman came across quite a large group of armed men setting up base in Kampung Tandou in Sabah. The fisherman, suspecting something was amiss, reported their findings to the police. The “intruders” were believed to have entered the area by Malaysian waters.

The intruders began breaking up into smaller groups, and separating over several areas around Lahad Datu. Lahad Datu is a place located on the east of Sabah, eastern Malaysia on the island of Borneo.  The grouped identified themselves as the Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate from southern Philippines.

The Sulu intruders, or the Royal Army of the Sulu Sultanate, said they were sent by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who is apparently, a self-proclaimed Sultan of the Sulu Sultanate. They demanded that Sabah be returned to the people of Sulu, as they claimed it belonged to them.

Sabah used to be under the rule of the Brunei sultanate. The then Brunei Sultan gave the northern and eastern part of Borneo to the Sulu Sultan.
The Sulu sultanate was founded in 1457 by a Johor-born Arab explorer, Sayyid Abu Bakr Abirin.

The capital of the Sulu sultanate was said to have been located on the island of Jolo, which is about 150km east of Sabah. Soon, by the 18th century, the influence of the Sulu sultanate included the southern Philippines as well.

The Sulu sultanate had apparently leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company back in 1878. Under this contract, the British North Borneo Company was allowed to occupy Sabah for all time (perpetuity), as long as the company paid a regular sum of money. Malaysia has taken over the payment of this money after its formation.  The contract used the word pajak (lease), but the British translated it to cession, which could mean ‘surrendering’. Later on, the word pajak was interpreted to mean ‘sale’. As you can see, there were discrepancies on the interpretation of the contract.  

In 1963, North Borneo joined Malaysia and was named Sabah. Till this day, the Malaysian embassy till pays a sum of RM5,300 to the heirs of the Sulu sultanate a year.

Attempts have been made by both the Malaysian and Philippine government to reach a peaceful agreement to the present situation at Lahad Datu, but this has proved to be unsuccessful.

The conflict is still on-going unfortunately. If you are interested in keeping up-to-date with the Lahad Datu issue, click on the link below.



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Photo credit: User:Abangmanuk / / Public Domain Mark 1.0

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