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From friends to enemies: Duterte’s plan to reclaim Sabah irks Malaysia

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The Philippines and Malaysia are headed for a collision course with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte backing the Sulu Sultanate’s plan to retake Sabah from Malaysia.

In a report by Mindanews, The Royal Council of the Sulu Sultanate will meet in the first week of June 2016 in Jolo, Sulu to discuss their gameplane for Sabah.

The Royal Council is made up of five heirs of the Kiram clan – HRH Sultan Ibrahim Q. Bahjin, HRH Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram, HRH Sultan Mohammad Venizar Julkarnain Jainal Abirin, HRH Sultan Muizuddin Jainal Abirin Bahjin and HRH Sultan Phugdalun Kiram II.

The Sulu Sultanate were apaprently emboldened by Duterte’s announcement on 26 May 2016 that his government would re-assert its claim over Sabah.

“We are allowing proprietary heirs to talk (with Malaysia). Since it is part of our claim, it will be there as our land,” Duterte said in a report by Manila Bulletin.

Three days after Duterte’s announcement, Malaysia announced that it would not”not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah.” s

Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Sabah is recognised by the United Nations and the international community as part of Malaysia since the formation of the Federation on Sept 16, 1963″

This is a major turnaround in the state of affairs between the two countries from its friendly ties under the Aquino administration where Malaysia acted as an intermediary in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which led to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Kiram clan launched an ill-fated invasion of Lahad Datu, a town in Sabah in 2013.

The sultans of Sulu obtained a portion of Sabah as a prize for helping the Sultan of Brunei against his enemies in 1658. The sultans are claiming that Sabah was only transferred to the North Borneo Company in 1878 on a lease contract. Malaysi, however, is claiming that the sultans had ceded their right to the company in the 1878 agreement. Malaysia also said that Sabah’s resident themselves exercised their right to self-determination when they voted to join the Malaysian federation in 1963.