By Raïssa Robles
At high noon today, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III declared a “unilateral ceasefire”.
This was after learning that he had caught the attention of no less than the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
I believe Kiram’s main objective was to internationalize the claim to Sabah.
Earlier, Kiram’s wife, Celia, had said over radio station DZMM that Kiram had written to the UN about Sabah, which she described as “not the Kiram property alone [but] the patrimony of the Filipino people… of the Tausug people and of the whole Sultanate of Sulu.”
And Kiram had repeatedly called on the UN to intervene.
The UN chief, through his spokesman issued the following statement today:
6 March 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged an end to violence and encouraged dialogue among all parties to peacefully resolve the situation in Sabah, Malaysia.
According to media reports, Malaysian troops are searching houses and terrain for armed members of a Filipino clan embroiled in a three-week conflict in Sabah on Borneo island. Related violence has reportedly left eight members of the Malaysian security forces and 19 clan members dead.
“The Secretary-General is closely following the situation in Sabah,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson. “He urges an end to the violence and encourages dialogue among all the parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation.”
Mr. Ban also expressed concern about the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region.
“He urges all parties to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards,” said the statement.
You can view the UN statement here.
Of course nothing in the UN statement indicates that it recognizes the Sultanate of Sulu as an entity or Kiram as its legitimate head.
However, this was also how the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) slowly gained status from being a mere break-away faction to a full-fledged legitimate organization recognized by international organizations.
The question now is – will the Sultan’s “royal army” in Sabah heed the ceasefire?
What will the Malaysian government do? How will the ruling party UMNO play this politically?
Will the Sabah issue be returned to the back burner once more?
Will all the competing branches of the Kiram family finally unite and talk with the Philippine government so that both can negotiate as one with Malaysia?