Latest Sabah claim not Manila’s stand, Anifah says

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman (pic) said Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had explained to him that the issue is being manipulated for politics in the Philippines. — Reuters pic

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 10 — The Philippine government has assured Malaysia that it has no plans to claim Sabah as reported in its media recently, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said last night.

Anifah said Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had approached him during an Asean foreign ministers meet two days ago in Singapore, and explained that the issue is being manipulated for politics there.

“I did not ask him about it because we have said before we do not recognise the claim so I need not raise it. But he said that because of politics, some individuals were trying to use controversial issues to promote themselves.

“But he said no way was the government involved, Malaysia and Philippines enjoy good bilateral relations and they did not want an individual’s statement to spoil that,” he said when met at a Chinese New Year event for his constituency here.

Anifah said it is common for politicians to use such tactics of bringing up sensitive and controversial issues for political gain.

Last month, it was reported that a member of the Philippines Consultative Committee and former senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr, who was appointed to review the country’s 1987 Constitution, said he would propose the inclusion of Sabah as the 13th federal state under a new federal Philippine Constitution.

Its President Rodrigo Duterte had in 2016 promised that his administration will pursue the Sabah claim “by peaceful means.”

The republic has long been claiming Sabah as its own, by way of a 1878 land lease agreement between the Sultanate of Sulu and the British North Borneo Chartered Co

Malaysia has consistently rejected the claim.

In a separate development, Anifah said that MySabah, an non-political organisation he chairs, has made some headway with the federal attorney-general (AG) on reviewing Sabah’s rights within the Malaysian federation and they would come up with a report by month end.

“The State AG, the State Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang and other lawyers are discussing it in detail and there has been positive movement in that the attorney-general Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali himself has said that we may have a case.

“We aim to present our findings to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister by the end of February,” he said.

Anifah has been vocal about reinstating Sabah’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, particularly the return of a 40 per cent revenue which was provided for in the agreement.

Along with being co-chairman of the Federal appointed steering committee to review the agreement, Anifah also heads the MySabah group which is joined by Sabahans from different professional backgrounds and politicians from different political divides.