KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — In regards to Sulu Group claims, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob today gave assurance that the government will protect the country’s assets using every all channels available.

“They (Sulu Group) brought the case to court, so we will also protect our assets through legal channels.

“I give assurance not to compromise or even budge an inch in defending the country’s rights and sovereignty,” he told reporters after opening the 2022 National Security Conference (PKN22) held in conjunction with National Security Month celebration here today.

He said this in response to the issue concerning the Sulu Group who were reported to have threatened Malaysia’s interests and assets overseas, especially the assets belonging to government-linked companies.

On July 12, assets of two Petronas subsidiaries in Azerbaijan were reported to have been seized by the Sulu Group, who were claiming AS$14.92 bilion (RM62.59 bilion) from Malaysia.

The move was said to be part of legal efforts launched in 2017 by the heirs to receive compensation over land in Sabah which they claimed their ancestor had leased to a British trading company in 1878.

Ismail Sabri said he was made to understand that Petronas and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar would give an explanation to Parliament soon on the seizure of Petronas assets in Azerbaijan.

He said the Cabinet had, on July 14, agreed to set up a special task force to study, monitor and formulate an appropriate action plan based on the provision of the law to address the issue of Sulu Group claims on Malaysia.

“A special task force has been set up to look into the issue in a comprehensive manner, not only concerning Petronas assets but also Malaysia’s other assets abroad. There are many government-linked companies which have assets overseas and this will be looked into thoroughly,” he said.

When asked about the need to mobilise security forces to defend the country’s assets overseas, Ismail Sabri said: “It’s not easy to bring security forces to other countries, unless under the United Nations (UN) flag.” Last March, a French arbitration court ruled that Malaysia, which inherited the lease obligations after it gained independence from Britain, must pay at least US$14.92 billion to the descendants of the last Sulu Sultan.

However, Wan Junaidi said the Malaysian government did not recognise the claims and proceedings by the arbitration court in Pari as the decision made by the arbitrator, Dr Gonzalo Stampa, was null and void after his appointment was revoked in 2021.

Last Tuesday, the Paris Court of Appeal allowed the Malaysian government’s application to stay the enforcement of the Final Award issued by the arbitration court on the ground that it would affect the immunity of Malaysia’s sovereignty.

In his statement on Wednesday, Wan Junaidi said as a result of the suspension order given by the Paris Court of Appeal, the Final Award cannot be enforced in any country until a final decision is made by the Paris Court regarding the Malaysia government’s application for cancellation of the Final Award. — Bernama