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As Long as We Remember...

February 27, 2013

The Mouse that Roared and the Sultan of Sulu

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian, Borneo – In probably the most bizarre invasion of a country ever to occur, a group between 100 and 300 people, depending on who you ask, invaded Malaysia last week. They were either heavily armed or a rag tag group of old men, nobody here seems to be sure.


Landing by boat from the south Philippines, they either marched or meandered to a small village in central Borneo, where, after a few days, they were detected and surrounded by the police. “Negotiations” began and they were very politely asked to return to their home.


The group claims allegiance to the Sultan of Sulu, who says most of North Borneo is part of his empire. The problem is his kingdom no longer exists and hasn’t for between 150 or 200 years depending on who you ask. Even then, it was relegated to a few small islands.


The Army of the Kingdom of Sulu, as they call themselves, have not taken any hostages and voiced no demands except they want to stay. They have no intention of returning to the Philippines. They claim they have the right to reside in Malaysia via a long forgotten promise made to the then Sultan by the British colonists.


Malaysia is much better place to live that the southern Philippines. Malaysian North Borneo (Sabah) has a comparatively excellent infrastructure, schools, medical facilities and job opportunities. The region is politically stable and the people live in peace. Compared to the Philippines, it’s nirvana.


The Southern Philippines, like southern Thailand, has been wracked by revolutionaries under the guise of Islam. They shoot and kill the local population while trying to convince them to unite under the banner of religion.


The government in Manila, fed up with years of trying to bring peace to the region, has just granted the rebels political recognition and established an “autonomous region.” The designation allows them to do what they want without interference.


Now that the rebels have gotten what they want, although not full independence, the usual predictable patterns will emerge. The rebels will fight among themselves until the strongest and most insane leader takes control. Then the winners will terrorize the population loping off heads and hands until all opposition is beaten into submission.


Once the people are firmly cowed, Arab, oil-rich nations will begin to pour billions of dollars into the new entity. The idea is to build schools, hospitals and roads. However, most of the money will end up in Swiss bank accounts as the strong man and his cronies begin their lavish lifestyle, ignoring their impoverished country men.


Obviously, there is no room in the new order for a tiny group of people who demand the return of large swaths of three different countries to form a new nation. Had they stayed, they probably would have been, or will be, shot.


The problem is what to do with them. The government of Malaysia cannot keep them because it would almost certainly encourage a flood of refugees trying the escape the terror to come. The Philippines doesn’t have a clue either because it likely thought that by establishing the new zone in the south, their long standing headache was solved.


As of this writing, Monday, the Malaysian government has asked the Philippines to come and get them. The reply was that the Manila government needs more time to figure things out. Both probably hope the entire episode will go away, and the group could stay in the kampung in Borneo where they obviously have supporters from other undetected incursions.


Stay tuned.


…Life is good. . . . .


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