North Borneo dispute
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The North Borneo dispute refers to the territorial dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines over much of the eastern part of Sabah. Sabah was known as North Borneo prior to the formation of the Malaysian federation. The Philippines, through the heritage of the Sultanate of Sulu, retains a "dormant claim" on Sabah on the basis that the territory was only leased to the British North Borneo Company in 1878 with the Sultanate's sovereignty never being relinquished. However, Malaysia considers this dispute as a "non-issue" as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession and that it deems that the residents of Sabah had exercised their right to self-determination when they voted to join the Malaysian federation in 1963.
On 22 January 1878, an agreement was signed between the Sultanate of Sulu and British commercial syndicate (Alfred Dent and Baron von Overback), which stipulated that North Borneo was either ceded or leased (depending on translation used) to the British syndicate in return for payment of 5000 Malayan Dollars per year. On 22 April 1903, Sultan Jamalul Kiram signed a document known as "Confirmation of cession of certain islands", under which he grant and ceded additional islands in the neighbourhood of the mainland of North Borneo from Banggi Island to Sibuku Bay to British North Borneo Company. This Confirmatory Deed of 1903 makes it known and understood between the two parties that the islands mentioned were included in the cession of the districts and islands mentioned in the 22nd January, 1878 Agreement. Additional cession money is 300 dollars a year and arrears for past occupation 3,200 dollars. The sum 5,000 dollars a year payable every year then increased to 5,300 dollars a year payable every year. Note: The Confirmatory Deed of 1903 must be viewed in the light of the 1878 Agreement. The British North Borneo Company entered into a Confirmatory Deed with the Sultanate of Sulu in 1903, thereby confirming and ratifying what was done in 1878.
The key word in the agreement is "padjak", a Malay term which was translated by Spanish linguists in 1878 and by American anthropologists H. Otley Beyer and Harold Conklin in 1946 as "arrendamiento" or "lease". The British, on the other hand, used the interpretation of historian Najeeb Mitry Saleeby in 1908 and William George Maxwell and William Summer Gibson in 1924 as "grant and cede". It can be argued however, that "padjak" means "mortgage" or "pawn" or even "wholesale", as per the contemporary meaning of "padjak" in Sulu.
Every year, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a check in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (US$1710 or about 77,000 Philippine pesos) to the legal counsel of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu. Malaysia considers the amount an annual “cession” payment for the land, while the sultan’s descendants consider it “rent.”
As attested by International Court of Justice, undisputedly, the Sultan of Sulu relinquished the sovereign rights over all his possessions in favour of Spain, based on Bases of Peace and Capitulation signed by Sultan of Sulu and Spain in Jolo on the 22 July 1878.
In 1885, Great Britain, Germany and Spain signed the Madrid Protocol to cement Spanish influence over the islands of the Philippines. In the same agreement, Spain relinquished all claim to North Borneo which had belong to the Sultanate in the past.
The Spanish Government renounces, as far as regards the British Government, all claims of sovereignty over the territories of the continent of Borneo, which belong, or which have belonged in the past to the Sultan of Sulu (Jolo), and which comprise the neighbouring islands of Balambangan, Banguey, and Malawali, as well as all those comprised within a zone of three maritime leagues from the coast, and which form part of the territories administered by the Company styled the “British North Borneo Company.”—Article III, Madrid Protocol of 1885
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The Philippine Constitution of 1935 states that the national territory of the Philippines included, among other things, "all other areas which belong to the Philippines on the basis of historical rights or legal claims". Malaysia was federated in 16 September 1963. Even before Sabah was incorporated into Malaysia, the Philippines sent delegations to London reminding the British Crown that Sabah belonged to the Philippines.
The Sultanate of Sulu was granted the north-eastern part of the territory as a prize for helping the Sultan of Brunei against his enemies and from then on that part of Borneo was recognized as part of the Sultan of Sulu's sovereignty. The 1878 cession/rental payment was continued until the independence and formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963 together with Singapore, Sarawak and the states of Malaya. As of 2004, the Malaysian Embassy to the Philippines had been paying cession/rental money amounting to US$1,500 per year (about 6,300 Malaysian ringgits) to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu. This is an act of British government before the federation and continued to the today's government of Malaysia.
The Sultan of Sulu relinquished the sovereign rights over all his possessions in favour of Spain, based on Bases of Peace and Capitulation signed by Sultan of Sulu and Spain in Jolo on the 22 July 1878. In 1885, Spain relinquished all of its claim to Borneo to the British in the Madrid Protocol of 1885.
In spite of that, in 1906 and 1920 the United States formally reminded Great Britain that Sabah did not belong to them and was still part of the Sultanate of Sulu on the premise that Spain never acquired sovereignty over North Borneo to transfer all its claims of sovereignty over North Borneo to Great Britain on the Madrid Protocol of 1885.[unreliable source?][dubious ]. However, the British Government proceeded with the annexation the territory of North Borneo as a Crown Colony on July 10, 1946.[dubious ]
On 12 September 1962, during President Diosdado Macapagal's administration, the territory of North Borneo, and the full sovereignty, title and dominion over it were ceded by then reigning Sultan of Sulu, Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I, to the Philippines. The cession effectively gave the Philippine government the full authority to pursue their claim in international courts. The Philippines broke diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the federation had included Sabah in 1963 but probably resumed it unofficially through the Manila Accord where the Philippines made it clear that its position on the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia is subject to the final outcome of the Philippine claim to North Borneo, and the representatives of Indonesia and Federation of Malaya seconded that the inclusion of North Borneo into the aforementioned Federation "would not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder".
It was revealed later in 1968 that President Ferdinand Marcos was training a team of militants on Corregidor known as Operation Merdeka for infiltration into Sabah. The plan failed in the event known as the Jabidah massacre.
Diplomatic ties were resumed in 1989 because succeeding Philippine administrations have placed the claim in the back burner in the interest of pursuing cordial economic and security relations with Kuala Lumpur.
Republic Act 5446, which took effect on 18 September 1968, regards Sabah as a territory "over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty." On 16 July 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that the Philippine claim over Sabah is retained and may be pursued in the future.
To date, Malaysia continues to consistently reject Philippine calls to resolve the matter of Sabah's jurisdiction to the International Court of Justice. Sabah sees the claim made by the Philippines' Moro leader Nur Misuari to take Sabah to International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a non-issue and thus dismissed the claim.
Note: The above mentioned Sulu claim is currently resting on the treaty which was signed by Sultan Jamalalulazam of Sulu appointing Baron de Overbeck as Dato Bendahara and Raja Sandakan on 22nd January 1878.
But there is, in fact, another treaty which was signed earlier by Sultan Abdul Momin appointing Baron de Overbeck as the Maharaja Sabah, Rajah Gaya and Sandakan signed on 29th December 1877. In 1877, the Brunei Sultanate then still believed and maintained that the territory was in fact still under the control of the Brunei Sultanate.
Formation of Malaysia
Prior to the formation of the Malaysia, two commissions of enquiry visited North Borneo (along with neighbouring Sarawak) in order to establish the state of public opinion there regarding merger with Malaya (and Singapore). The commission was mandated at addressing self-determination of the people of Sabah, i.e., the right of the people of Sabah to freely determine their own political status and freely pursue their own economic, social and cultural development. The first commission, usually known as the Cobbold Commission was established by the Malayan and British governments and was headed by Lord Cobbold, along with two representatives of Malaya and Britain (but not either of the territories under investigation). The Commission found that 'About one third of the population of each territory [i.e. of North Borneo and of Sarawak] strongly favours early realisation of Malaysia without too much concern over terms and conditions. Another third, many of them favourable to the Malaysia project, ask, with varying degrees of emphasis, for conditions and safeguards. The remaining third is divided between those who insist upon independence before Malaysia is considered and those who would strongly prefer to see British rule continue for some years to come'. The Commission published its report on August 1, 1962 and had made several recommendations. Unlike in Singapore, however, no referendum was ever conducted in North Borneo (now Sabah and Labuan) and Sarawak.
Indonesia and the Philippines rejected the findings of the Cobbold Commission. In 1963, a tripartite meeting was held in Manila between Indonesian president Soekarno, Philippines president Diosdado Macapagal and Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. An agreement, known as the Manila Accord, was signed. It stipulated that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Malaysia will not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder by the Philippines to the territory. The three heads of state agreed to petition the UN to send another commission of enquiry and the Philippines and Indonesia agreed to drop their objection to the formation of Malaysia if the new commission found popular opinion in the territories in favour. The UN Mission to Borneo was thus established, comprising members of the UN Secretariat from Argentina, Brazil, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Ghana, Pakistan, Japan and Jordan. The Mission's report, authored by UN Secretary-General U Thant found ‘a sizeable majority of the people' in favour of joining Malaysia. Although Indonesia and the Philippines subsequently rejected the report's findings – and Indonesia continued its semi-military policy of konfrontasi towards Malaysia – the report in effect sealed the creation of Malaysia.
In 1939, a civil suit was filed by propriety claimants (Dayang Dayang Hadji Piandao and eight other heirs) of the "cession money" payable to the heir of Sultan of Sulu, following the death of Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II in June 1936, childless. Chief Justice C. F. C. Macaskie of the High Court of North Borneo made a ruling on the shares entitled by each claimants.
This ruling has often been quoted by proponents of the Sulu Sultanate's claim as proof of North Borneo's acknowledgment of the sultan's ownership of the said territory, although the ruling was made just to determine who are entitled to the "cession money", amounting to 5,300 Malaysian ringgit per year.
Sovereignty over Ligitan and Sipadan islands case
In 2002, in the case concerning sovereignty over Ligitan and Sipadan islands between Indonesia and Malaysia, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favor of Malaysia. The two islands are located in the Celebes Sea off the northeast coast of Borneo. The case was decided based on Malaysia's effectivités (evidence of possession and use by a particular state that is effective to claim title) on the two islands as both Indonesia and Malaysia did not possess treaty-based titles on Ligitan and Sipadan.
The Philippines applied to intervene in the case based on its territorial claim to North Borneo. Indonesia objected to the application and stated that the "Philippines raises no claim with respect to [the two islands] and maintains that the legal status of North Borneo is not a matter on which the Court has been asked to rule." Malaysia further contended that "the issue of sovereignty over Ligitan and Sipadan is completely independent of that of the status of North Borneo" and that "the territorial titles are different in the two cases".
The application was ultimately rejected by the ICJ because of the non-existence of an "interest of legal nature" such that the Court did not find how the decision on the case concerning the two islands would affect the Philippines' territorial claim to North Borneo.
On February 11, 2013, a group of approximately 100–200 individuals, some of them armed, arrived by boat in Lahad Datu, Sabah from Simunul island, Tawi-Tawi of southern Philippines. They were sent by Jamalul Kiram III, one of the claimants to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu. Their objective was to assert their unresolved territorial claim to North Borneo.
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