From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 17): Malaysian court sets trial of Kiram men
A Malaysian court will start on Sept. 27 the trial of a nephew of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and 28 other Filipinos who are accused of terrorism for their alleged intrusion into Sabah in February to claim the territory as theirs.
Datu Amirbahar Hussin Kiram, who is said to have the rank of “general” in the Sulu Sultanate’s Royal Security Forces, faces the death sentence if convicted. He is the Sabah-based son of Kiram’s younger brother, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II.
Judge Ravinthran Paramaguru reset the joint trial of the 29 accused to Sept. 27 from Sept. 17, during which at least 50 prosecution witnesses would be able to testify, the Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times reported on Tuesday.
For security reasons, Malaysian Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail proposed that the court proceedings be held in a heavily secured police headquarters in Kinarut, Kota Kinabalu.
The Sabah conflict started on Feb. 9 when 235 followers of the Sultanate of Sulu sailed to the disputed territory. The so-called Sulu Royal Security Force was led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.\
The Malaysian government gave the Sulu gunmen until March 1 to surrender despite President Benigno Aquino III’s appeal for “maximum tolerance.” The next day, the Malaysian armed forces launched a military offensive against the sultanate’s men.
And on May 15, eight Filipinos were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Malaysian court for their role in the Sabah standoff.
Amirbahar, along with the 28 other alleged followers of the Sulu Sultanate, had pleaded not guilty to the charge of waging war on the Malaysian King Yang di-Pertuan Agong and sheltering or recruiting people to become members of a terrorist group during their arraignment on June 27.
In Taguig City, Kiram’s spokesman Abraham Idjirani asked the Philippine government to extend legal assistance to the 29 Filipinos, who he said were being tried illegally by the Malaysian authorities.
“They are Filipino citizens, too, and they should be assisted by the government,” Idjirani said.
“We are appealing to the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide them with legal assistance.”
The Malaysian court has assigned lawyers to defend the 29 accused, but Idjirani said their determination and motivation to defend the Filipinos were suspect.
“The lawyers assigned to them are Malaysians and they’re defending foreigners that they regard as terrorists,” Idjirani said.
“But we’re still hoping they will respect their rights in the spirit of Ramadan.”
According to New Straits Times, 22 of the accused Filipinos will be represented by International Criminal Court counsel Datuk Sivananthan, a Malaysian appointed by the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Amirbahar aside, the other accused are Basad Samuel, Mohamad Ali Ahmad, Pabblo Allie, Abd Hadi Mawan, Atik Hussin Abu Bakar, Dani Ismail, Saidili Jaharul, Totoh Hismullah, Basil Samiul, Rizman Gulan, Abdul Majil Jubin, Rijmal Salleh, Julham Rashid, Tani Lahad Dahi, Al Wazir Osman, Virgilio Nemar Patulada, Masir Aidin, Anwar Salib Akhmad, Ismail Yasin, and Binhar Salib Akhmad.
Those accused of lesser terrorism-related charges are Aman Radie, Timhar Hadir, Holland Kalbi and Lin Mad Salleh.
Three others are accused of harboring terrorists, and they are Norhaida Ibnahi, Kadir Uyung and Lating Tiong.
Another accused—Salib Akhmad Emali—faces three charges and possibly a fourth for allegedly recruiting people to become members of a supposed terror group.
The last of the accused, Habil Suhaili, pleaded not guilty of being a member of a terrorist group during his arraignment on July 12 at the Tawau High Court.
Two more annexes to go (power-sharing and normalization) still stand on the way of the negotiators from government and MILF --- and this early nobody can ever tell whether they can settle these unscathed. The remaining two issues are as tough as wealth-sharing.
MILF negotiators have confessed that the recent peace talk, which lasted for six days and six hours, is the toughest of all. The negotiation for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) lasted only for five days. They attributed this difficulty to many factors, which they did not disclose, except by saying that the subject is tough. Wealth and power are the two most difficult commodities to share by rulers and states. They will hold on to them like a leech to ensure the grip of the status quo that benefits only few in society especially the elites.
However, there is no hurdle that a willing and dedicated peace partners cannot find a way out. There is always that formula of compromise. The government and MILF peace negotiators have proved this during the last peace encounter in Kuala Lumpur. Not until the dying minutes of the negotiation, already way past 10:00 into the night of the sixth day, that the breaker was found. This was followed by yelling and clapping of hands (mostly from the government side), signaling that the deal was already clinched.
We are sure that the presence of two cabinet members from the Aquino administration made things easier for the government negotiators. Otherwise, if the game plan is not really to close the deal on wealth-sharing, then there is no wisdom of sending them to Kuala Lumpur.
To make sure that the two remaining issues will also be sealed, the government and MILF should now discriminate those harder issues from those already settled. To date, only three issues on power-sharing are unsettled. On normalization, there are still many areas for the parties to work on, but the latest meeting in Kuala Lumpur, more and more issues are settled on the level of the technical working group (TWG).
By now, the two parties have surely realized that they have invested already for the peace talks. To go back to zero is harsher than to move and finish the peace process. They know the consequences of both happenings.