Negotiating window with Filipino rebels closed: Malaysian PM
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia on Saturday said supporters of a Muslim royal clan from Philippines who occupied a village in the country's eastern Sabah state had used a white flag as a ruse to open fire on Malaysian police, killing two security personnel.
At least 14 people were killed yesterday when a armed group led by a brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of the southern Philippine province of Sulu clashed with the Malaysian security forces as tension mounted in the nearly 20-day standoff.
Prime Minister Najib Razak described it as a cowardly act and said the window for negotiations was closed given the hostile stand taken by the rebels.
"The two slain commandos had seen the white flag and did not think that there would be other intruders waiting to open fire on them. I do not rule out the possibility that it was a trap by the intruders. If they had resorted to such a tactic, it was a act of coward," he told reporters.
The Malaysian government has given the Sulu invaders two choices: surrender or face the repercussions at the hands of security forces, Razak said.
"The Sulu rebels have to surrender or they will face the action of our security forces," he told a press conference.
"I've told (Philippine President Benigno) Aquino that the Government will not consider any claims by the Sulu gunmen... they only have two options- surrender or face actions by our security forces," he said.
In Manila, Aquino in a message to the rebel group said that they should "surrender now without conditions."
The Sulu royal Sultan Jamalul Kiram, however, said that Aquino's order to his men in Sabah to "surrender now with no conditions" was "not acceptable".
"All they know how to say is surrender, surrender. Why should we surrender in our own home? They (his followers now in Sabah) are not doing anything bad in their own home," Kiram said.
A group of about 200 followers of the Sultanate of Sulu had entered the coastal village of Lahad Datu in Sabah on Borneo island on February 9 to claim the territory as their own, citing ownership documents from the late 1800s.
The group is asking Malaysia to renegotiate the original terms of a lease on Sabah by the Sultanate to a British trading company in the 19th century.
Both the Philippines and Malaysian authorities told the group to leave the area but the clan refused.