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Oct 21st
Home Sections Politics There Is Only One Solution to the Sabah Dispute: Hold a Referendum that Calls for the Creation of an Independent State of Sabah & Sulu
There Is Only One Solution to the Sabah Dispute: Hold a Referendum that Calls for the Creation of an Independent State of Sabah & Sulu PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Politics
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Sunday, 29 May 2011 08:53


First of an Occasional Series about the Sabah Issue


By Lolo Bobby M. Reyes of Sorsogon City, Philippines, and West Covina, California


On Sept. 12, 1962, then-Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal signed an agreement with the then-Sultan of Sulu, HM Sultan Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I, wherein the territory of North Borneo, and the full sovereignty, title and dominion over the territory were ceded by the Sultanate of Sulu to the Republic of the Philippines. The cession effectively gave the Philippine government the full authority to pursue their claim in international courts.


It was an ill-advised move for then-President Macapagal. Why? From viewpoint of geopolitics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would not agree to such a move because “returning” (sic) the control of Sabah to the Sultanate of Sulu, which then owed allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, would place Sabah under the influence of the United States of America. From the viewpoint of religion, the majority of the people of Sabah, which belongs to the Islamic faith, would not agree to be under the control of the Philippines, which is predominantly controlled by Christian politicians and policy-and-decision makers. The Christian voters of a combined state of the Philippines, Sulu and Sabah would have always a controlling majority of any election held for national positions. Proof? The Senate of the Philippines does not have a single Muslim senator, as all the qualified Muslim candidates lost in the recent May 10, 2010, national elections.


Only Solution to the Sabah Dispute


T here is only one feasible way to decide the whole festering dispute: Hold a referendum in Sabah and Sulu that calls for the creation of an independent State of Sabah & Sulu (SS&S).


There are precedents to holding referenda to settle political disputes. The latest is the referendum held in Southern Sudan last January 2011.


Here are details of the said referendum: “A referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 January to 15 January 2011, [1] on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. [2][3] The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).


“A simultaneous referendum was supposed to be held in Abyei on whether to become part of Southern Sudan but it has been postponed due to conflict over demarcation and residency rights. [4]


“On 7 February 2011, the referendum commission published the final results, with 98.83% voting in favour of independence. [5] While the ballots are going to be suspended in 10 of the 79 counties for exceeding 100% of the voter turnout, the number of votes are (sic) still well over the requirement of 60% turnout, and the majority vote for secession is not in question.


The predetermined date for the creation of an independent state is 9 July 2011. [6]“(Data from,_2011)


How to Make a Referendum in Sabah Palatable to the World Community


F or the Sultanate of Sulu to win the suggested referendum, it must show the voters of Sabah that it is by itself a sovereign state and it will have to ask them to vote for the creation of an independent SS&S.


A majority of the voters of Sabah may support the creation of an independent SS&S, as many of them supposedly hate the control of the Imperial Kuala Lumpur, in the same way that Muslims in Mindanao and other regional groups in the Visayan islands and the Bicol Region hate the “neo-colonial authority” of the Imperial Manila.


The first suggested step is to persuade the Imperial Manila and the Filipino national policy-and-decision makers to terminate the agreement signed on Sept. 12, 1962, by then-Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal. A new agreement may then be signed between the national government of the Philippines and the Sultanate of Sulu restoring the complete political sovereignty of the Sultanate in the same manner that the Federal Government of the United States has granted sovereignty to the American Native Indian tribes. (More information on the compact between the United States and the Native-Indian Nations is found in this link,


There is no need to amend the Constitution of the Philippines because then-President Macapagal did not also need to amend it when he signed the said agreement with the Sultanate of Sulu.


If the Filipino national policy-and-decision makers refuse to support the idea of an independent SS&S, then the matter could be raised in the 2016 Philippine presidential elections. The candidate that espouses the idea of an independent SS&S as part of his/her political platform is presumed to carry the people’s mandate if he/she is elected to the Philippine presidency.


Giving back the sovereignty to the Sultanate of Sulu may end the near-uprising of the Muslim population of Mindanao, provided they are given the right to become dual citizens of the new SS&S. (The ultimate solution of course to the problems of Mindanao and the unrest in the Visayas, Bicol and even Northern Luzon over the control of the Imperial Manila is the turning of the Philippines into a Federal Republic, as proposed by former Senator Aquilino Q “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. But that requires another position paper to publish for discussion among readers with their thinking caps on.)


The new agreement may also grant to the Muslims of Mindanao and the Sultanate of Sulu the option of becoming dual citizens of the Philippines in the same manner that Overseas Filipinos had been granted the same right to dual citizenship.


On the other hand, the Sultanate of Sulu may propose to the people of a combined independent SS&S that they shall also be given the right to acquire dual citizenship with Malaysia and/or a triple citizenship with the Philippines.


The G-8 countries, the Islamic World, Russia and other developed countries and the United Nations may support the establishment of an independent SS&S if the proponents may dangle the formation of an SS&S All-Muslim peacekeepers, engineering brigades and medical corps that may be fielded in Islamic countries that are in turmoil. Details of this idea are found in these articles:


The Concept of an Islamic Peacekeeping Force (As Proposed in MabuhayRadio in 2007) Is Now Being Talked About




Why the Afghan War Is Beyond Redemption. And the Only Solution to End It




The establishment of an independent SS&S may be also the first step in establishing a Pan-Malayan version of the European Economic Union among Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the new independent SS&S and the Philippines. The other non-Malayan member-countries of the Association of Southeast-Asian Nations (ASEAN) may later be admitted to this new economic cooperation.


Historical Background of the Sultanate of Sulu’s Claim Over Sabah


As found in the, here are some background materials about the Sabah issue: “the Sultanate of Sulu was granted the north-eastern part of the territory as a prize for helping the Sultan of Brunei against his enemies and from then on that part of Borneo was recognized as part of the Sultan of Sulu's sovereignty. In 1878, Baron Von Overbeck, an Austrian partner representing The British North Borneo Company and his British partner Alfred Dent, leased the territory of Sabah. In return, the company was to provide arms to the Sultan to resist the Spaniards and 5,000 Malayan dollars annual rental based on the Mexican dollar's value at that time or its equivalent in gold. This lease was continued until the independence and formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963 together with Singapore, Sarawak and the states of Malaya. As of 2004, the Malaysian Embassy to the Philippines had been paying cession/rental money amounting to US$1,500 per year (about 6,300 Malaysian Ringgits) to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu.


“The Philippines broke diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the federation had included Sabah in 1963 but probably resumed it unofficially through the Manila Accord.

“Diplomatic ties resumed in 1989 because succeeding Philippine administrations have placed the claim on the backburner in the interest of pursuing cordial economic and security relations with
Kuala Lumpur.”


(To be continued . . .)


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Last Updated on Sunday, 29 May 2011 09:18
Comments (1)
Anne de Bretagne (As Posted in the Facebook):

A couple of things right off the bat, Bobby, by way of solving a political dilemma involving a major issue as independence, a referendum indeed is the most viable solution to resolve a political impasse. That said, a referendum of that magnitude must impose very strict guidelines. The UN obviously must issue a resolution recognising such move... that is one hurdle (assuming Manila or as you say, Imperial Manila, agrees), Second hurdle is to set the referendum in motion for an honest to goodness referendum process. I'm saying this because Malaysia could very well step into the picture to disrupt the process ... just food for thought ...

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