By Debra Chong
Assistant News Editor
The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — At least two fresh groups of 100 Filipinos have arrived in Sabah to reinforce the Sulu sultanate’s earlier troops who were slain in deadly combat with Malaysian security forces, Philippine newspapers reported.
The Manila Times cited the self-styled sultanate’s secretary-general and spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, as saying he had received a call yesterday from elusive group leader and “crown prince” Agbimuddin Kiram, informing that the reinforcements had arrived safely in the north Borneo state and were probably bent on vengeance against those who had killed some 60 members of their “royal army” and harassed other Filipinos there.
“The Malaysian forces have no respect for all Filipinos in Sabah that is why [the two groups] are probably planning to exact,” Idjirani was quoted saying.
The Philippine Star also cited Idjirani saying the reinforcements numbered some 100 heavily-armed civilians from various parts of Mindanao in the Philippines who had joined the sultanate’s royal army and had succeeded in slipping past the sea blockade set up by both Malaysian and Philippine navies.
“(Agbimuddin) called me about the arrival of civilians with arms who have joined the royal security forces,” Idjirani was quoted as saying in The Philippine Star.
Agbimuddin, younger brother to the ailing Sulu Sultan Jamallul Kiram III, had landed with some 200 followers in a village near Lahad Datu on February 9 to renew his clan’s 17th-century stake over Sabah.
A total of 62 Sulus have been reported killed in the violent conflict enveloping Sabah’s east coast that have also snuffed out the lives of eight Malaysian policemen and two soldiers.
Malaysian security forces have captured more than 100 Sulus believed linked to the gunmen, and eight have been hauled to court here on terror charges.
Some 5,000 Filipinos have returned to their homeland since the Sabah crisis began in February, with tales of human rights abuses that have enraged fellow Philippine citizens and lawmakers.
The Philippine Senate has demanded its government hold Malaysia accountable for the possible human rights violations on the 800,000-strong Filipino migrant community in Sabah at the hands of local authorities searching for a ragtag band of Sulu militants claiming ownership of the north Borneo state.
The volatile situation in Sabah appears to be election fodder with both the Philippines and Malaysia readying for national polls this year.