Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sultan Vows to Keep Sulu Islands out of Philippines’ New Bangsamoro Statelet

Now that the vest-pocket war between the military Malaysian in its eastern province of Sabah and a rebel group loyal to the Philippine islands’ defunct Sultanate of Sulu has largely died down, the Republic of the Philippines is beginning to grapple with the resurgent sultanate’s implications for its southern Moro insurgency.

On August 2nd, a spokesmen for the unrecognized Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo announced that the Sulu archipelago, a small, predominantly-Muslim island group in the southern Philippines, cannot be part of the new autonomous region to be called Bangsamoro which the Philippine government has been negotiating into being with Muslim Moro rebels.

The royal spokesman
Like much of the rest of the southern Philippines, Sulu is dominated by indigenous peoples grouped under the larger category Moros—a name derived from the Spanish word for Moors, because they had already been Islamized by the time the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the 16th century.  In 1924, the Sulu islands petitioned to remain under United States administration while the rest of the Philippines were being ushered to independence.  The U.S. had conquered the Philippines from Spain in the Spanish-American War, and Sulu’s Muslims feared oppression and marginalization in a newly independent Catholic-majority nation-state.  Today, Moros are only 5% of the Philippine population.  In the 1960s, Moros in Sulu and other provinces founded the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM).  During the 1970s and ’80s, the Moro insurgency became a proxy conflict in the Cold War—with the U.S.-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos cracking down on Communist-backed Muslim rebels—but after Marcos’s fall in 1986, an Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was formed.  The Moro National Liberation Front (M.N.L.F.) and other hardliners continued the struggle for full independence and also made alliances with global jihadists, but in 2012 more moderate nationalists of the unfortunately named MILF rebel group (it stands for Moro Islamic Liberation Front) negotiated the creation of a larger and more autonomous region, with the old ARMM at its core, to be called Bangsamoro.

Attempts to hammer out the details of the creation of the region were complicated in March of this year by the sudden invasion (reported on at the time in this blog) of nearby Malaysia’s Sabah province by a ragtag army of several hundred men loyal to Jamalul Kiram III, one claimant to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu, which, on paper at least, ceded its territory to United States sovereignty in 1898.  That, however, apparently does not include the sultanate’s non-Philippine territories, namely Sabah, on the island of Borneo.  Suluans never saw an 1851 treaty with the Spanish Empire as a cession, and thus they believe that Spain’s transfer of Sabah to the British Empire in 1885 was invalid.  Moro activists had long clamored for successive Philippine governments to press their claims against Malaysia and try to take back Sabah.  At first, it was not clear if Sultan Kiram wanted Sabah for himself or was merely trying to prod Manila to taking a stronger irredentist stand (which is quixotic, since Manila and Kuala Lumpur have become solid partners in the post-Marcos era).  But then the sultanate allied itself with the radical M.N.L.F., who regard the MILF’s Bangsamoro plan as a shoddy compromise on independence.

The current Sultan of Sulu
Now, the royal spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, declared August 2nd that Mindanao island’s Zamboanga peninsula and the islands between it and Borneo will not come under what it calls MILF administration.  In a clear statement of the sultanate’s sovereignty, Idjirani said, “The territory known as Archipelago of Sulu belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.  It was recognized by the United States in the Introductory Statement of the 1915 Kiram–Carpenter Agreement as an independent political sovereignty for more than 400 years prior to an American occupation and rule which begun in 1900, including England, Spain, Germany, [the Netherlands], France, and China in 1405.”

The MILF is more moderate, but it uses the same flag.
And if you think that it complicates things that the MILF, the M.N.L.F., and the Sultanate of Sulu all have their own ideas of who should administer these territories, consider this: the Sultan has also declared that his territory includes the minuscule but geopolitically crucial Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (i.e., Taiwan), the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam, and two squabbling British-derived micronations which claim the Spratlys as their home: the Republic of Morac–Songhrati–Meads and the Kingdom of Humanity.

[You can read more about the Sultanate of Sulu, Bangsomoro, and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]

1 comment:

  1. Fuck Sulu ! Pinoy should kick them out ! But Pinoy Gov is a child and can't do shit but keep talking about military defense strategy like US gives a damn about Pinoy


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