Tawi-Tawi worried over possible influx of Sabah refugees
- John Unson | Philippine Star
COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali and leaders of the provinces signed on Friday a manifesto urging Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu to put an end to the strife in Sabah.
The manifesto was also signed by Vice Gov. Ruby Sahali, members of the provincial board, and local executives in all of the island towns in the province.
The signatories also called on the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and the Malaysian government to agree to a peaceful dialogue to enable both sides to freely iron out their misunderstandings over Sabah.
“Anger will only exacerbate the situation. Divisive politics, racial prejudices and violent postures should not influence both sides,” the officials said in the manifesto.
The contents of the manifesto were unanimously agreed upon by the signatories during an emergency dialogue in Tawi-Tawi’s provincial capital, Bongao.
The document said the Lahad Datu incident is a “debacle” and the "Sabah claim," if not resolved, could mean more tragedies in the future.
Local officials said a big fraction of the 800,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah are from the island towns of Tawi-Tawi, the nearest province from the island state.
The officials said that they are not prepared to handle the possible arrival of thousands of refugees in Tawi-Tawi once the crisis in Lahad Datu spreads to nearby areas in Sabah.
The officials also pointed out in the manifesto that since Tawi-Tawi gets its supply of rice, petroleum products and many other consumer goods from Sabah, the escalation of hostilities between Kiram’s royal army and Malaysian security forces can seriously affect the lives of the local residents.
“While we understand, respect and honor the claims of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu over Sabah, we urge the sultan to take into account that aggression and violence should not be used to advance their cause,” the local officials said.
The manifesto, which the Tawi-Tawi provincial government intends to send to Malacañang and the Malaysian government through its embassy in Manila, was also signed by representatives of the police and the military.