Friday, March 8, 2013

PH seeks access to Filipinos detained in Sabah

From InterAksyon (Mar 8): PH seeks access to Filipinos detained in Sabah

The Philippines has “strongly” asked Malaysia that it be given access to the members of the Kiram group arrested in Sabah, even as Malaysia has not responded to an earlier request to allow Philippine Navy ships to dock in Sabah so that the women and children can be evacuated.

“This morning, we sent a note verbale to the Malaysian embassy to strongly request that the Philippine embassy team in Lahad Datu be given full access to 10 members of Kiram group apprehended in Sabah consistent with the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez in a briefing Friday.

The DFA reminded Malaysia that those arrested must be treated humanely.

Among the requests contained in the note verbale is for the Malaysian government to allow the Philippine humanitarian ship to dock in Lahad Datu and create a humanitarian corridor that would allow women, children and civilians to leave the island.

“So far these have not been granted. Maybe they are still considering that,” he said.

“The operationalization of this will depend on the people involved. The environment there in Lahad Datu will prevent them from allowing our people to dock in Lahad Datu,” he added.

At the same time, Hernandez suggested that the Kirams “lay down their arms” after Malaysia rejected the Sultan of Sulu’s call for a ceasefire.

“At this point, after the Malaysian government rejected the call of Jamalul Kiram for reciprocity of their declaration of unilateral ceasefire, it appears that the only option left for the Kirams to save lives for certainty is to lay down their arms,” he said.

Hernandez said the Philippines cannot validate the reports coming from Sabah, including the number of deaths, because Philippine embassy officials have not been allowed to go there.

“No information has been shared with us by the Malaysian government on the operational side being undertaken in Lahad Datu,” he said.

Hernandez said dialogues are ongoing with both parties in a bid to stop the bloodshed.

“We have been endeavoring to do that. What happened was the violence last Friday. We are continuing to explore all avenues to avoid further loss of lives,” he said.

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