KOTA KINABALU, Jan 27 — One of the families claiming to be the true descendants of the Sulu Sultanate has named its new Raja Muda or crown prince, following the death of their previous successor earlier this month.
Esmail Kiram II, one of the so-called heirs apparent to the throne of the now-defunct kingdom, proclaimed that his younger brother Datu Phugdal Kiram would be the next crown prince, replacing Azzimudie Kiram who died of a heart attack on January 13.
The Star Online reported that Phugdal, a 68-year-old former public school teacher, was chosen by virtue of being a direct descendant of Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim, the first Sultan of Sulu.
Azzimudie, 74, gained notoriety after leading some 200 Sulu gunmen on a month-long incursion of Lahad Datu, Sabah in February 2013, ending in a deadly battle with Malaysian security forces that reportedly killed 68 of the intruders and 10 Malaysian security personnel.
Malaysian authorities have since arrested 173 people in connection with the invasion, with 27 Filipinos and three locals being tried on terrorism-related charges.
The intrusion prompted Malaysian authorities to beef up security in Sabah’s porous eastern maritime borders, setting up the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) in March 2013 to man a 1,400-kilometre stretch from Kudat to Tawau.
Alleged descendants of the Sulu Sultanate have long laid claim on Sabah, arguing that the once-thriving kingdom had merely leased out North Borneo – as the state was formerly known – to the British North Borneo Company at a rate of 5,000 Malayan dollars in 1878, a figure that was revised upwards to 5,300 Malayan dollars in 1903.
Sabah later joined Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963, but the country continues to pay the annual stipend of RM5,300 on the basis that the Sulu Sultanate cedes its claim on the state.