MANILA, Philippines?The state legislature of Sabah in Malaysia rejected a move by a local party to discuss the status of the Philippines? dormant claim over Sabah, according to news reports.
The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) proposed the discussion of the issue following the arrest of a man who claimed to be descendant of the so-called Sultan of Sulu and 11 others, presumably Filipinos, by the police in the town of Lahad Datu for burning flags of Sabah on April 4.
However, Sabah state assembly speaker Datuk Juhar Marihuddin, citing parliamentary rules, forbade any discussion of the proposal made by assemblyman Datuk Liew Teck, who represented the Likas constituency, in the capital city Kota Kinabalu.
Juhar, in interviews over Malaysian media, including the state-owned Bernama news agency, said that in the first place the assembly does not recognize the claim.
?If the matter is discussed during the Assembly, it would be like acknowledging the Philippine claim on Sabah, although Sabah is already recognized by the United Nations as part of Malaysia,? the speaker was quoted as saying.
In an article on the SAPP website, Liew said the claim ?has disturbed the people's mind and lives for so long, should be noted by the state and federal governments.
Liew also cited the illegal immigration of Filipinos into Sabah which he said ?has caused social and security problems.?
According to media reports, police arrested the flag-burners for illegal assembly. They and others held two separate rallies in front of two markets in Lahad Datu, in eastern Sabah, during which they allegedly burned six Sabah state flags.
Liew said the flag-burning ?caused anger among Malaysian in Sabah.? SAPP, which is part of the governing coalition Barisan Nasional, wanted the Sabah government to inquire from the federal government on the status of the Philippine claim.
The Philippines claims sovereignty over Sabah, formerly the British colony of North Borneo, saying it used to be a part of the Sultanate of Sulu and was merely leased by the sultan to Great Britain in 1878.
Malaysia, however, said the lease was nullified when British left and the residents of North Borneo overwhelmingly voted to join the Malaysian federation in 1963.
Recent Philippine administrations have placed the claim in the backburner in the interest of pursuing cordial economic and security relations with Malaysia.
To date, Malaysia continues to consistently reject Philippine calls to resolve the matter of Sabah's jurisdiction at the International Court of Justice.
Malaysia, however, continues to pay the heirs of the Sulu sultan an annual rent of about 6,300 Malaysian ringgits as provided in the original cession treaty.