Azalina hopes for more decisive action on Sulu claims case

Jason Santos

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman wants more decisive action to resolve the ongoing Sulu dispute. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 24, 2024.

MINISTER in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman wants more decisive action to resolve the ongoing Sulu dispute.

She expressed concern about potential new fraudulent claims against Malaysia but acknowledged the limitations of her role in handling international matters as the minister in charge of domestic law.

“On international issues, I wonder if there is more we can do. However, I believe these matters should be handled by the foreign affairs minister, as they fall outside my jurisdiction,” Azalina said.

“I share the same frustration because, after this, what’s next? We don’t know who else might make claims, not just in Sabah but possibly in Peninsular Malaysia too.

“Many people can make claims because our country has a very rich history. That is why we must ensure that whatever strategy we implement is thorough and effective.”

Azalina was responding to a question in parliament today from Semporna MP Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who said the Sabah claim by the Philippines is being used as political fodder among Filipino politicians to gain traction.

She said Malaysia has not set a specific timeline to resolve the existing fraudulent claims by the heirs of the so-called Sulu sultanate.

“As far as the government is concerned, these claims are from outsiders.

“We don’t know who else will come forward because many claim to be siblings and relatives. Maybe the old sultanate in 1878 had many families; I don’t know. But we will continue to defend.”

Azalina said the government is considering legal action against those behind the fraudulent claims and is in the process of identifying Malaysian instigators and traitors involved in sharing information.

However, she acknowledged the difficulty in identifying the culprits due to non-disclosure agreements tied to the involved parties, including the funder.

“If the people support us until the very end, criminal action can be taken against those involved, and we can also try to recover the costs we have spent in defending the honour of Malaysia and standing together for the people of Sabah,” she said.

Malaysia has faced claims, since 2019, from eight Filipino citizens asserting themselves as heirs of the Sulu sultanate. These claims have led to legal action in several countries, including Spain, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Azalina said Spanish arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa, who previously ordered Malaysia to pay US$14.92 billion to the heirs, is now appealing to the Supreme Court of Spain against his conviction for contempt of court. Stampa faces six months in jail and a one-year ban as an arbitrator. This appeal is his last opportunity to overturn the charges.

She said the French Court of Appeal sided with Malaysia, canceling a previous court order dated September 29, 2021, on the grounds that the arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction. The hearing for further appeals is set for September 17, 2024.

In Luxembourg, Malaysia is working to nullify the Attachment Order dated May 18, 2022. The Luxembourg Court has scheduled a hearing for June 26, 2024, to hear arguments from both sides.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled in Malaysia’s favor by refusing to recognise and enforce the final award. The claimants have appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, with a decision expected on October 25, 2024. – June 24, 2024

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