PETALING JAYA: The self-styled Sulu Sultan Esmail Kiram II has proclaimed that his younger brother Datu Phugdal Kiram will be the next Raja Muda (crown prince) of the so-called Sulu Sultanate.
Esmail told the Star Online on Tuesday that Phugdal, 68, was chosen because of the Sultanate's law of succession and that to be a candidate one had to be a direct descendant of Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim, the first Sulu Sultan.
Phugdal, who was a public school teacher, will assume the title of Rajah Muda held by his older brother, the late Azzimudie Kiram, 74 who died of a heart attack on Jan 13.
Azzimudie led the Sulu armed intrusion into Kampung Tanduo at Felda Sabah 17 near Lahad Datu, Sabah, in February 2013 that led to a bloody standoff.
When asked why another brother Datu Alianiapa was not named to take over from Azzimudie, Esmail said that under the Sulu Sultanate succession law, the older brother (Phugdal) was next in line and not the younger sibling (Alianiapa).
"Some people are spreading rumours of a power struggle to show that we are not united. Datu Phugdal is the rightful successor," he said.
When asked if there were plans to invade Sabah again, Esmail said there was no invasion in the first place as Sabah belonged to them historically.
"We never use the word claim as Sabah belongs to us," he said.
During the military offensive to regain control of Tanduo in March 2013, Azzimudie and several of his followers escaped to Tawi-Tawi where he has been hiding out until his death.
Some 60 people, including nine Malaysian security personnel were killed, in the operations against the Sulu gunmen.
Arrested were another 30 people including Esmail’s son, Datu Amir Bahar Husin Kiram.
They were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and subsequently charged for various offences including treason.
Their trial is currently underway.