Annex SabahAS OF NOW, war perhaps is a long shot but not off the table yet.
I’m not referring to the long and arduous scuffle between some rebellions ruffians and the Philippine military in the Sulu Sea but brewing tension just a few miles due south of there between our closest Malayan neighbors: Indonesia and Malaysia.
In Jakarta, apparently, this is big news. According to the Jakarta Post, Jakarta insists that Malaysia has breached their territory invading one of their islands along the eastern coast of Kalimantan (Borneo).
The island in question, Sebatik, straddles the border between the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan and Malaysian Sabah. Perhaps this little island would have no value if it weren’t for the region just east of the island known as the Ambalat, which has been found to hold vast quantities of oil.
With claims by the Indonesian government that Malaysians have sent aircraft and warships into the area, Jakarta has countered with their own fleet of warships including four F-16 fighter jets for the protection of their own national sovereignty. At first glance, it may not be apparent how the Philippines is involved in this regional conflict until one realizes the perch the Malaysian government is using to retrieve that island: Sabah.
Many of you should remember Sabah. Sabah formerly known as British North Borneo, hugs the northeastern corner of Kalimantan, has long been disputed by the Philippines as their own territory. During the 1600’s, this territory was given as a token of gratitude to the Sultan of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei in exchange for the former’s help during a civil war dispute by the latter.
According to historical records, two hundred years later, the Sultan of Sulu leased Sabah to an Austrian, Gustavus Overbeck and later to the British North Borneo Company for 5000 Malaysian dollars and armaments against the Spanish. So accordingly, the territory could not be transferred to another sovereignty without the express consent of the Sultan himself.
With the dawn of the 20th century, the British seemingly ignored pleas by Americans first and Filipino delegates later and consolidated Sabah with neighboring Sarawak and the peninsular Malaya to form Malaysia.
This latest controversy in the Sulawesi Sea is reviving old scars from that formation of the Malayan Federation 40 years ago which was opposed by both the Philippines and Indonesia. During that time, the Philippines broke off relations with Malaysia, insisting that Sabah was legally theirs while Indonesia saw Malaysia’s consolidation as Britain’s puppet state that threatened the very fabric of their independence.
So infuriated was Sukarno and his administration at their declaration that Indonesia went a step further, infiltrating parts of Sarawak and Sabah in 1963. Battles along the northern Borneo border and the Malayan Peninsula increased between Indonesian troops and Malaysians who were backed by regiments of British, Australian, Singaporean and even New Zealander soldiers.
Fighting only ceased with the coup d’etat of President Sukarno in 1965.
Today, even before the conflict over the island of Sebatik, relations were already heighten between Malaysia and its two neighbors thanks to Malaysia’s first crackdown on illegal foreign workers since 2002.
Malaysia is continually pressuring both nations to remove thousands of Filipinos and close to half a million Indonesians who have remained there illegally after the so-called amnesty period had ended.
As reported by Philstar, the crackdown, involving 300,000 police, immigration officials and volunteers, have sent offenders fleeing and leveled hundreds of captured detainees fines, jail time and even a caning. So with any further agitations, such as the one occurring in Eastern Kalimantan, you could be sure such acts won’t be helping mend any of the broken fences.
Now you would think Malaysians would have learned from their own history about what happens after claiming land about their neighborhood. Being the smaller country of the three, Malaysia should be treading delicately between their bigger brothers, especially Indonesia who dwarfs them by population alone. Of course, by upping the crackdowns on foreign illegal workers and awarding contracts of blocks to oil-gas rich water along questionable border areas, they apparently don’t seem to mind taking the whole cake and eating it too.
And if this isn’t just more proof of the saying, “History repeats itself,” Indonesia’s moody public has reacted to Malaysia’s actions accordingly: burning the Malaysian flag and advocating calls to war. In fact, thousands of youths from Sumatra to Sulawesi have joined youth organizations ready to do battle, hoping to “crush Malaysia,” a cry that was echoed by President Sukarno only 40 years ago. Of course years ago, that kind of rhetoric lead straight to intermittent war known by locals as the “Konfrontasi.”
Who knows what would happen this time.
With the set up as it is, Ate Glo couldn’t have been handed a better situation to take advantage of; a situation that her father was not fortunate enough to receive during his reign: a reason for the complete annexation of Sabah. Confer with Indonesian diplomats over our score with Malaysia about the region in question.
Tell them Malaysia may win the dispute over the Ambalat but if they lose the Sabah dispute, not only will they lose a chunk of North Borneo but also the claim to Sebatik and the oil that lies nearby. As of now, Malaysia is willing to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Ambalat region, but I’m sure they wouldn’t want to bring up the Sabah dispute again there either.
The dispute has documentation in 1939, prior to the formation of the federation that undoubtedly gives ownership of Sabah to the late Dayang Dayang Piandao and his heirs. Let the Indonesians place added pressure on Malaysia on the Sabah region, insisting that if the Malaysians continue to pursue the Ambalat region, Indonesia would back the Philippines’ claim over Sabah to the ICJ.
Ate Glo should seal the deal by making consolidations with the Indonesians that by us retaining Sabah, we would not interfere with Indonesia’s sovereignty over the island of Sebatik.
If this all falls through, Ate Glo would not only be seen as a regional peace-broker but a heroine within her own borders in this win-win situation for both nations. Indonesia would peacefully retain an island they have always considered theirs and lose the nuisance of a smaller rival near their richer provinces in East Kalimantan. The Philippines would finally retain jurisdiction over Sabah, a region rich with a growing eco-tourism, the highest peak in Southeast Asia, Kinabalu, and perhaps a chance to inaugurate our first national monkey: the orangutan.
So move over Philippine tarsier. There maybe a new monkey in town. - PDM
See this article,"Annex Sabah" in Philippine News. Click here.