WHAT WENT BEFORE: Sultan of Sulu’s 9 principal heirs
MANILA, Philippines—In 1939, a decision issued by the high court of North Borneo named the nine principal heirs of the last sultan of Sulu, whose descendants had been pressing their claim to Sabah.
Known as the 1939 Macaskie Judgment, the nine principal heirs of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II were Datu Punjungan Kiram, Datu Esmail Kiram, Dayang Dayang Piandao Kiram, Dayang Dayang Sitti Rada Kiram, Princess Tarhata Kiram, Princess Sakinur-In Kiram, Dayang Dayang Putli Jahara Kiram, Dayang Dayang Sitti Mariam Kiram and Mora Napsa.
Jamalul II’s father, Sultan Jamalul Ahlam, leased Sabah in 1878 to British North Borneo Co. Under the agreement, the company would pay 5,300 Mexican gold pieces a year to the Kingdom of Sulu. It continued to do so until 1936, when Jamalul II died.
According to Ahlam’s descendants, Sabah (formerly North Borneo) was ceded in 1704 to the sultan of Sulu by the sultan of Brunei, after the sultan of Sulu helped quell a rebellion against the sultan of Brunei.
After Jamalul II’s death, the British consul in Manila recommended the suspension of payments because President Manuel L. Quezon did not recognize Jamalul II’s successor.
Sultan Punjungan Kiram, crown prince of the sultanate at the time of Jamalul II’s death, went to the British consulate in Manila to demand the resumption of payments.
After the court decision, British North Borneo Co. complied for several years. It stopped paying when its rights to Sabah were transferred to the newly established Federation of Malaysia in 1963. The new government assumed the payment but in ringgit.
Every year, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a check in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (about P77,000) to the legal counsel of Jamalul Ahlam’s descendants. Malaysia considers the amount an annual “cession” payment for the disputed state, while the sultan’s descendants consider it “rent.”
According to Abraham Julpa Idjirani, secretary general and spokesperson of the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, the direct descendants and heirs of the sultan of Sulu and North Borneo at present are Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram III, Datu Alianapia Kiram, Datu Phugdal Kiram, Datu Baduruddin Kiram and the crown prince, Agbimuddin Kiram, official administrator of Sabah and son of Datu Punjungan.
In July 2008, there were reports that Jamalul II’s heirs had “dropped” their Sabah claim, but these were dismissed as untrue by the heirs. In the reports, Malaysian Datu Omar Ali Datu Backtiyal told a local newspaper in Malaysia that he had obtained the signatures of the nine heirs for the relinquishment of their claim to Sabah. The heirs dismissed the reports as “lies.”
Over the years, Jamalul II’s heirs have tried to get the attention of authorities by writing to them, but to no avail.
In February 1999, the late Princess Denchurain Kiram, daughter of Princess Tarhata, wrote then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad through former President Joseph Estrada to request for an increase in the annual rental. She died in September 2000 without receiving a reply.
No reply to letters
In January 2001, Sultan Esmail Kiram II and Princess Taj Mahal Kiram Tarsum-Nuqui, daughter of Princess Denchurain, wrote a similar letter to Mahathir through former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In August 2003, the heirs sent Arroyo another letter asking for help in requesting the Malaysian government to increase the rent, but nothing happened.
In February 2005 the heirs wrote another letter to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, but were likewise ignored. Inquirer Research