The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Followers of the sultan of Sulu who are holed up in Lahad Datu in Sabah island said they are determined to stay and are "leaving everything to the will of God."
"They told the Sultan that they are determined to stay there. Pinauubaya na nila sa will of god. This is a make-or-break situation," Celia Kiram, wife of Jamalul Kiram III, the Sultan of Sulu, said in a phone interview Monday.
Kiram said her husband, the sultan, and his brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, are constantly in touch discussing the situation. But she added that the people could not be asked to leave the area that was theirs.
The Department of Foreign Affairs on Sunday night deployed a ship to the island to ferry back women and civilians in the group. Malaysian authorities had earlier threatened to forcibly disperse the group.
"Our people went there not to wage war, but to settle the matter peacefully," Kiram said.
The standoff began on February 12 when hundreds of followers of the Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III, some of them armed, landed on Lahad Datu and initially said they wanted to revisit their “homeland.”
Then, they declared they were there to assert the sultanate’s dominion over the resource-rich territory, which the sultanate leased in 1878 to British merchants, but which ended up being given away - by the British government - to Malaysia upon the creation of the Malaysian federation.
Malaysia has been paying money through checks to the sultanate, covering rentals - the clearest evidence, asserts the sultan and all who support the Sabah claim, that Sabah belongs to the Philippines.