Aside from reinforcements coming from Tausug clansmen in some parts of Mindanao, the group of Radja Muda Agbimmudin Kiram has also won the sympathy of several Tausug commanders based in Sabah, along with their followers, and have joined the fight against Malaysian forces.
A reliable source said that at least three well-known Tausug commanders, who have peacefully settled in Sabah for years now, are now supporting the group of Radja Muda, the leader of the more than 200 followers of Sulu Sultanate who are now the subjects of wide-scale attacks by Malaysian forces.
“These three commanders, with their forces, are responsible in the counteractions in Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu,” said the source, who has links to the group of Radja Muda in Lahad Datu.
“They are sympathizers of the sultanate…and being Tausugs (they) defend Sabah in support for sultan’s sovereignty over Sabah,” the source added. The source gave the names of the commanders but requested they not be published.
Malaysian authorities have reported that 54 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III have been killed since the full-scale military operations were launched last March 1 in Lahad Datu. On the other hand, the Malaysian government confirmed only eight fatalities.
Earlier, another Tribune source confirmed the continuing sailing of hundreds of followers of the Kirams to Sabah from Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga Peninsula, mostly Tausugs.
The Tausug clansmen volunteered themselves to reinforce the group of Radja Muda.
Meanwhile, Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and national spokesman of the Sulu Sultanate, yesterday maintained that Radja Muda’s group remained in “good conditon” in Sabah despite Malaysian operations.
Idjirani said that Radja Muda told them at around 6:35 a.m. yesterday that his group was okay.
“He (Radja Muda) said that they are in good condition, they are fine,” said Idjirani.
“Compared to previous attacks, the operation (against Radja Muda’s group) has subsided…there are no more bombardments,” he added.
Idjirani also said the unilateral ceasefire declared by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, in reaction to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for resolve the conflict peacefully, has not been reciprocated by the Malaysian government.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas III yesterday met with the camp of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu to discuss the possible disengagement of the followers of the Sulu sultanate in Sabah amid the continuing intensified operations being conducted by Malaysian forces.
Esmail Kiram II, a brother of Sultan Kiram III, personally went to Camp Crame to meet with Roxas.
Roxas refused to discuss in detail the issues raised during the two-hour meeting, pending his report to President Aquino regarding the dialog.
“We can say that it is within (talks of) disengagement because all of us are concerned over what’s happening in Lahad Datu in Sabah,” said Roxas during a press briefing after the meeting.
“I also gave them updates on what is the government doing,” he added.
Roxas said he would be meeting with the President anytime yesterday to brief him about the meeting.
“We had a wide discussion toward resolving the present problem. He has messages for the President and that was what I promised to do,” said Roxas.
The DILG chief noted that since the start, Esmail has been active in pursuing a peaceful resolution of the Sabah standoff which started last Feb. 12 when more than 200 followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III occupied a village in Lahad Datu.
Roxas said that Esmail has been talking directly to Sabah authorities to prevent further bloodshed in the disputed territory.
For his part, Esmail said that the discussion was focused on how to address the present Sabah conflict. He did not elaborate stressing that, as agreed, the details of the meeting will only be made public after Roxas’ report to the President.
Roxas said the government’s main concern remains the safety and welfare of the Filipinos in Sabah, estimated to number around 800,000.
The secretary also clarified that, contrary to claims by some parties, talks with the Kirams have been on-going in different levels since the crisis erupted in early February. “Talk is better than no talk.”
Roxas said the closed door meeting with the Kiram family, which lasted nearly two hours, covered many aspects of the Sabah issue.
Meawhile, In Gumaca, Quezon , President Aquino’s so-alled “conspiracy theory” on the Sabah conflict, supposedly involving some known personalities identified with the previous administration is “plausible,” according to re-electionist Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV yesterday.
But the senator, who is running under Aquino’s Team PNoy coalition, would not corroborate further Malacañang’s allegations, saying that he may not have some access to some classified information available to the President on the Sabah crisis.
“If the President made that statement, this means he has basis and he has access to intelligence information which we don’t have access to. So I’m going to give the President the benefit of the doubt that he has leads going to that direction.
“It’s plausible and based on some information on the ground, the President’s statements can be validated,” he said to reporters covering Team PNoy’s sorties in the province.
But the senator admitted receiving similar information supposedly involving former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, whom Aquino would not even implicate in the alleged conspiracy theory.
“I won’t go beyond what the President said,” he said.
But not too long ago, long before the Sabah conflict erupted, Trillanes, a former military officer, said he had received information that Gonzales has been supposedly doing the rounds, conducting seminars with various groups.
“He was speaking about a revolutionary environment, about several months ago, a couple of months ago with various sectors and those who actually attended it relayed the information (to me),” he said.
Trillanes said he was no longer surprised to hear of Gonzales’ name since he’s been “everywhere.”
“There’s nothing illegal about it per se but for intelligence purposes, that has value,” said Trillanes.
The senator disputed the issue of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) being supposedly in the picture on the alleged conspiracy theory. “We’re leaving it up to the probe of the President who are connected in this conspiracy,” he said.
By Mario J. Mallari, Gina Elorde and Angie M. Rosales