KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — Lawmakers must still transparently discuss the defunct Sulu sultanate’s legal claim against Malaysia, Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said after a classified meeting from the government last night.

Speaking to reporters after the event at Seri Pacific Hotel here, the Semporna MP insisted there were matters surrounding the issue that were public knowledge and would not have a bearing on the ongoing legal dispute.

“We didn’t just discuss what’s happening in court but we also voiced out about how we need the issue to be debated because what we have raised is not a secret at all,” he said in front of the hotel’s ballroom.

Yesterday, the government invited federal lawmakers to the closed-door briefing, the contents of which were ostensibly classified under the Official Secrets Act, after attempts to discuss the matter in Parliament were rejected.

There, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah said that the government took note of views attendees expressed during the briefing.

“I think it was a good discussion and as far as Wisma Putra’s concern we take note on the points that were raised tonight,” he said.

The briefing started at 8.30 pm and lasted about two hours, with Cabinet members and lawmakers seen departing around 11.30pm.

Earlier, the hotel staff locked the entrance at 9pm to prevent entry or exit from the ballroom.

Attendees had also been directed to leave their electronic devices with the reception before entering the hall.

The decades-long controversy came to light again earlier this year when a European arbitration court awarded the purported Sulu heirs US$14.9 billion for the alleged breach of a lease in Sabah signed with a British trading company in 1878.

The lease agreement predated the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

The arbitration was initiated by the purported heirs and “successors” of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II in 2017, owing to the Malaysian government’s termination of cession payments in 2013 after the sultanate invaded Lahad Datu in Sabah.

While Malaysia had refused to acknowledge the ruling, it was reported that two Petronas Luxembourg-registered subsidiaries, reportedly valued at about RM8.87 billion, were seized pursuant to the arbitration.

On July 12, the Paris Court of Appeal allowed the Malaysian government’s application to stay the enforcement of the final award on claims by the Sulu parties.