(Leadall) Palace firm on decision for Kiram's followers to come back before dialogue

February 27, 2013 11:12 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Feb. 27 — Malacanang Wednesday stood firm on its decision for the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to come back to the Philippines before negotiation.

The Sultan reportedly wants to have a negotiation with President Benigno Aquino III before he tells his followers to leave Sabah.

"That’s not acceptable to us. Bumalik kayo (Sultan's followers) rito and we will talk to you," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda during the press briefing.

"You want a presentation of your claim; you want the government to help your claim, you cooperate with us, we will talk to you," he said.

"Let’s remove first the tension in the area and then let us discuss," he added.

More than anything else, Lacierda said the concern of the President is on the safety of about 800,000 Filipinos living in Sabah.

"The President has asked them: 'Come back to the Philippines, we’ll discuss; I will talk to you.' But what have they said? They refused to. You don’t hold a gun to my head and negotiate. It’s like you put a gun to my head, mag-usap tayo. That’s not the way decent people do negotiations. You want us to know your claim, you cooperate," he noted.

Lacierda insisted that the presence of Kiram’s armed followers in Sabah is not helping their claim to Sabah.

"Let’s remove first the tension in the area, then let us discuss. Di ba, ‘yon naman ang gusto mo (Kiram). You want to have a discussion where everything is… where there is no tension, and we will talk to you. But in a situation where there are armed people there, where the situation is tensed in Lahad Datu, you don’t expect us to come and talk to you. It’s like you’re forcing us," he stated.

"The government has not been unreasonable. We have sent emissaries to discuss with them. The entire purpose of this is to come up with a peaceful resolution to the incident. We are also concerned not only with the 180 who are in Lahad Datu, we’re also concerned with the welfare of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. We have a broader perspective than the 180 people and that’s the concern of the President," the Palace Spokesman said.

Lacierda said the government's concern is to defuse the tension in Sabah by appealing to Sultan Kiram and his followers to leave Sabah then start the dialogue.

"Is that unreasonable? I think that’s a fair and prudent act and I think that should be reciprocated by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III," he said.

"This is not about Sabah. The President’s concern is about the welfare of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. Trade has been disrupted in that area. We are very concerned with the welfare of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah. That’s what the President is looking into," he noted.

Lacierda said the Philippine government has exerted all efforts for a peaceful resolution to the issue and to extend the deadline imposed by the Malaysian government for the armed group to leave Sabah.

"The Malaysian government has deadlines that they have set. We have succeeded in extending the deadlines several times. That shows the resolve of this government to come up with a peaceful resolution. And I think you cannot fault us. You cannot blame us. That we have done reasonable means. We have sent emissaries, we have asked the Malaysia(n) (government) to extend the deadline. We will continue to press for a peaceful resolution but the ball is in their court. We already told them to come home, we will talk. It’s up to them if they would insist on their position which may lead to a course of action that would not be pleasant to all of us. Again, we are continuing to exert all efforts to come up with a peaceful resolution. It’s up to the Sultan. It’s up to the 180 people in Lahad Datu. We have a ship there ready to bring them home. It’s up to them," he said.

"Let me emphasize: we continue to exert efforts to have a peaceful resolution. It is up to the Sultan to decide what course of action he will take, and I hope that he will not take a course of action that will lead to violence," he noted.

Meanwhile, the Palace Spokesman said that the government will continue to study the Sabah claim, including the lineage of the Sulu sultanate.

"Pag-aaralan muna ito ng masinsinan. Mahalaga po, alamin natin kung ano ’yung basehan kaya ‘yan po ay pinag-aaralan. Inatasan na po ng Pangulo ang mga iilang ahensiya (para) pag-aralan po ito," hesaid.

He said: "Our actions can only proceed from a clear knowledge of what the present situation is, ranging from a review of the past, the documents, and also — an identification also of what is the situation as between the claimants to the throne to the Sultanate of Sulu.

"The President has formed a task — a group to study the claim. The DOJ (Department of Justice) is studying the legal basis of the claim.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs is looking into the policy issue, and the PCDSPO (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office) is looking at the historical research of the claim.

"So that is right now being studied." (PNA)

HBC/LGI

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