KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 ? President Benigno Aquino III will not be forgiven for standing back while Malaysia rained bombs on Filipino citizens in Sabah, rebel leader Nur Misuari has said, warning of chaos if the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is arrested or his men apprehended.
Misuari, who leads the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a political-turned-rebel Muslim group he founded in 1969, said Aquino should be more decisive and stop Malaysia’s attack on Jamalul’s men in Sabah instead of siding with his southern neighbor.
“What he has done is very bad,” the leader was quoted as saying in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “It is unbecoming of a head of state, to be siding with the enemy of his own people.”
“And for what reason is he (Aquino) aligning this country with Malaysia, a colonial power occupying the land of our people? I am against that, totally against that with all my soul. I hope the president will be properly advised. I hope he will recant. Otherwise we won’t forgive him,” he added during a press conference yesterday at Jamalul’s residence in Taguig City, Philippines.
“And there is an attempt even to arrest the sultan, I understand. Let them do that. The country will be in total chaos if they do, I promise you.”
Misuary also claimed he had warned Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak that fighting the Sulu gunmen in Sabah “would be tantamount to war”.
He reportedly added that he was willing to send his grandnephew who lives in Malaysia, and whom he claims is Najib’s relative, to speak with the prime minister on a possible peaceful end to the standoff.
Government officials from the Philippines have repeatedly sought to ward off criticism against the Aquino administration for failing to protect the lives of its own countrymen, whom many Filipinos believe were merely staking a claim over land that was rightfully theirs.
The Inquirer’s report said Misuari had also agreed with the Sulu Sultanate’s assertion that Sabah “is our homeland”, but denied that he had inspired their Sabah landing, or that his men in the MNLF, many of whom were reportedly trained in Malaysia, were joining the conflict in east Malaysia.
According to several reports in the Philippine media, Misuari described it as “madness” to assume he had a hand in the matter.
“For anyone to speculate that I had anything to do with (Sabah standoff) is a kind of madness,” he was reported as saying, according to a Twitter posting by Philippines media network ABS-CBN.
“Misuari also denies financing Kiram’s group in Sabah. ‘That’s not my way of doing things.’” the network quoted, using the handle @ANCALERTS.
Malaysia’s Defense Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi appeared to concur with Misuari’s remarks during a press conference yesterday, when he said there was no evidence that the Malaysia-trained MNLF fighters were joining their fellow Filipino Muslim militants in the fight to reclaim Sabah.
“We have to distinguish between Sulu terrorists and the Sulu people in Sabah,” Ahmad Zahid told a press conference here.
“We are focusing only on Sulu terrorists. I hope that our Sulu friends in Sabah will be with the government. We as a government have been taking care of them,” he added.
The Manila Bulletin had said in an early report yesterday that Hadji Acmad Bayam, a former chief propagandist of the separatist group, had said the MNLF had hidden an arsenal deep in Sabah’s rugged terrain before they returned home after their rigid training, adding he was confident the authorities would not be able to find the firearms.
Acmad was reported to have stayed in Sabah for nearly a decade, from 1976 to 1986, before yielding to then Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos.
The former militant leader told the Philippine paper that many of the seasoned rebel commanders and rank-and-file members had chosen to stay back in Sabah.
Most of them were from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and the Zamboanga peninsula on the Philippines south, he said, adding that the MNLF men also included those from Maguindanao, Irano and Maranao.
Acmad related that one of the senior-ranking Malaysia-trained commanders had contacted him a few days ago, saying he was enlisting Tausug warriors and others to back the followers of Agbimuddin Kiram, the self-styled crown prince and heir to the Sulu sultanate that claims ownership to Sabah based on colonial documents.
“I was trying to contact him yesterday but his phone cannot be reached anymore.
“I guess he was able to penetrate the Malaysian and Philippine sea-borne blockades in their respective borders,” Acmad was quoted saying.
The Malaysian Armed Forces launched an attack on the Filipino intruders at Kampung Tanduo, Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu at 7am yesterday, raining down heavy artillery on the small coastal village where the Sulu gunmen have been holed in since their arrival on February 9.
By Clara Chooi
The Malaysian Insider
06 March 2013