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Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 ― Malaysians, especially those living in Sabah, have been urged to prevent the dissemination of misleading information instigated by the so-called heirs of the Sulu Sultanate following their attempts to enforce a disputed US$14.9 billion (RM69.2 billion) arbitration award against the Malaysian government.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said there was no denying that the heirs’ claim had garnered the attention of both local and international communities.

Therefore, Wan Junaidi said it is the responsibility of the ruling administration to ensure that awareness is instilled in members of the public on the issue.

“In other words, Sabahans play a role in filtering and suppressing the dissemination of inaccurate information on the heirs’ claims while shifting their focus towards veritable sources from the government itself or relevant state departments.

“The responsibility in safeguarding national interest is a joint effort,” he told the Dewan Rakyat during Minister’s Question Time today.

Wan Junaidi was responding to Beaufort MP Datuk Seri Azizah Mohd Dun on the action that needs to be taken by the people of Sabah in understanding the current issue at hand with regards to the claims staked by the so-called Sulu Sultanate’s descendents.

He further noted that the country was now facing a situation where international news outlets have been reporting inaccurate facts on the issue which could further jeopardise the ongoing court proceedings in several European countries.

“At the same time, there is a necessity to explain to the people the facts and current status involving the government over the issue.

“Thus it is the government’s focus to ensure an accurate, effective and efficient narrative reaches our intended target audience within and outside of the country,” Wan Junaidi added, further stating that the government has also taken a counter-narrative stance to curb misinformation.

On a supplementary question by Azizah, Wan Junaidi said he cannot disclose further the government’s latest move in public, so as to prevent the heirs from gaining an advantage that may serve to compromise the country’s position but assured that all will be revealed when the time is right.

Most recently, the heirs had requested a Dutch court for permission to seize Malaysian assets in the Netherlands, of which some of Malaysia’s biggest companies have operations ― including state oil firm Petronas ― in enforcing the arbitration award against Malaysia on September 29.

Separately, Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin also asked Wan Junaidi to state the government’s stance over recent claims by Filipino politicians to stake the country’s claim on Sabah following the arbitration award.

To this, Wan Junaidi stressed that the Philippines has never officially dropped its claim over Sabah and the issue has always been confined within and politicised by politicians in the republic.

On September 29, Filipino senator Francis Tolentino told his country’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to “seize the opportunity” to stake the Philippines’ claim on Sabah following the arbitration award granted to the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate against the Malaysian government.

While the Philippine government recognises the conflicting claims it has with Malaysia over Sabah, Manila remains firm in its authority over the territory based on an agreement with the Sulu Sultanate.

“Thus far Wisma Putra (Foreign Ministry) has been informed of the matter raised by the said senator, and Wisma Putra will only take action if and when the Philippine government reacts to their demands,” he said in response to Chan’s supplementary question.

The decades-long controversy reared its head this year when a European arbitration court awarded the alleged Sulu heirs US$14.9 billion for the alleged breach of the 1878 lease between the Sultan of Sulu at the time Sultan Mohamet Jamal Al Alam and Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent where the former granted and ceded sovereign rights over certain territories located in North Borneo.

The final award in favour of the Sulu claimants over the ongoing dispute was issued by Spanish arbiter Dr Gonzalo Stampa in February this year.

Subsequent to the issuing of the final award, a French court later ordered Malaysia to pay the heirs up to US$14.92 billion for violating the 1878 land lease.

On July 13, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was quoted as saying that the Paris Court of Appeal had granted leave to Putrajaya’s application to suspend the arbitration ruling which declared the Malaysian government was liable to a billion-ringgit settlement claimed by the so-called Sulu sultanate heirs.

This meant the previous ruling obtained in Spain cannot be enforced in any country until an ultimatum is reached in Paris, after authorities in Luxembourg reportedly seized the assets of two Petronas subsidiaries claimed by the heirs.

The Malaysian government had filed for Stampa’s removal as the arbitrator by the Madrid High Court in June last year. Stampa was eventually declared ineligible, and Putrajaya has used the verdict as the basis to reject and dismiss the validity of the Final Award.

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