Malaysia, Philippines for peaceful end to Sabah standoff
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia and the Philippines are looking for a quick end to a peculiar standoff after followers of a Filipino sultan crossed over to the Malaysian province of Sabah, declaring it as their "own home".
Amid a tense standoff, Sultan Jamalul Kiram said his followers - some 400 people including 20 gunmen - were resolute in staying despite being cornered by security forces, with the Malaysian government insisting the group return to the Philippines.
"Why should we leave our own home? Our followers will stay in Lahad Datu (a town in Sabah). Nobody will be sent to the Philippines. Sabah is our home. In fact they (the Malaysians) are paying rent (to us)," he was quoted as saying by the Manila Times.
Meanwhile, Malaysia`s Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein reached Lahad Datu, where the group are holed up in a seaside village.
Hishamuddin said Malaysia was doing everything possible to ensure that the standoff, now into its second week, is settled without bloodshed, adding the not compromise its sovereignty and security.
"I hope they don`t push us," he said after flying into the Felda Sahabat area where he was briefed by top police officials about the situation.
On the other side, a Filipino senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan said that the Philippines can revive its claim on Sabah but the government would have to be very careful so that Malaysian authorities would not think that the Philippines is resorting to violence.
Honasan said that government should also make sure that the controversy will not affect the peace process and framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Islamic militant group which has recently agreed to a historic ceasefire with the Filipino government after a long and bloody conflict.
Sultan Kiram has however claimed that the small group was not armed.
The southern Philippine-based Islamic sultanate, which Kiram is a heir to, once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the standoff, and its heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah.
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