KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had again questioned the suitability of using a commercial arbitration platform to resolve the claim made by the self-proclaimed descendants of the Sulu Sultanate against Malaysia.

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted Azalina as saying that the chosen arbitration process does not make any sense.

“It’s set down in Spain, somebody decides to jump to Paris and then decides to jump to Luxembourg.

“There are more questions than answers,” she was quoted by FMT yesterday from an interview with CDR (Commercial Dispute Resolution) News.

Azalina also voiced concern regarding the potential influence of third-party funders but acknowledged the need for such financial support.

“But in (the Sulu) case, I cannot get any information from the funders. Nobody wants to share and that’s not fair,” she said.

The Sulu sultanate heirs had obtained an arbitration award requiring Malaysia to pay nearly US$15 billion (RM71 billion) to the claimants, but the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in June that the arbitration court did not have jurisdiction in the case.

Azalina had said this decision implied that the Paris appellate court would subsequently annul the award.

The arbitration ruling in France followed an eight-year legal effort by the heirs, involving an infusion of US$20 million in funds from unidentified third-party investors.

On June 30, it was reported that Azalina called for a "fight fair” if the Sulu claimant’s lawyer wanted to continue their legal claims against Malaysia.

The Pengerang MP lamented that the dispute has been taken to various jurisdictions, moving from one country to another.

“If you want to fight, fight fairly, put your money where your mouth is.

“Don’t jump from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as if you want to take advantage of the United Nations (UN) or the arbitration forum,” she was reported saying.

In the Sulu claimants’ case, a Spanish court had appointed Gonzalo Stampa as the arbitrator, but later cancelled his appointment as arbitrator.

Despite Spain cancelling his appointment as arbitrator for the case, Stampa transferred the entire arbitration to France and decided to continue the arbitration before awarding US$14.9 billion to the Sulu claimants on February 28, 2022.

The Sulu claimants then tried to enforce the US$14.9 billion arbitration award by making attempts to seize assets belonging to Malaysia and Malaysian entities in France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

None of the assets have been seized, and Malaysia is still fighting through the courts to prevent such asset seizures and to prevent the US$14.9 billion award from being recognised or having any legal effect in those countries.