Speaker stands firm on not allowing debate on Sulu claims

CLAIMS by the so-called heirs of the Sulu Sultanate will not be debated in Parliament because Malaysia has ongoing proceedings involving the matter and its litigation strategies could be compromised, says Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun.

“Wouldn’t that (the debates) undermine the government’s interest in litigation proceedings? Should we show our strategy to the entire world?

“The first rule of litigation is the element of surprise, and the same applies to the first rule in war.

“YB has been complaining that we did not defend (our sovereignty) and now you want to publicly reveal our strategy?

“It is my responsibility not to allow this matter (to be debated),” he said yesterday.

Azhar also said he was always ready to chair debates, including on the Sulu claims, as he wasn’t a career politician.

“I don’t know how to play politics. Standing order 36(2) prohibits MPs from raising matters being considered by the courts,” added Azhar.

Both Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Mohamed Hanipa Maidin (PH-Sepang) yesterday said the motion to debate the Sulu claims should not have been rejected on Monday on grounds of sub judice.

Anwar (PH-Port Dickson) said rejecting the motion was unwise.

“Then this means everything cannot be mentioned (in this House), even 1MDB.

“How can an independent country’s sovereignty be challenged and yet this isn’t allowed to be debated in Parliament?” added Anwar.

In response to Anwar, Azhar said among the reasons that led to claims by the self-proclaimed heirs of the Sulu Sultanate in Spain and France was that Putrajaya stopped paying the cession payments of RM5,300 a year to the heirs since 2013.

“The Opposition leader himself mentioned that halts in payments had caused us to lose the court case.

“It is clear that this is a core issue in the litigation in Spain and France, as well as the arbitration proceedings,” said Azhar, adding that there were ongoing court cases abroad and debates in Parliament could be sub judice.

Malaysia had stopped paying RM5,300 annual cession payments following the Lahad Datu armed incursion.

The payment was part of an agreement under the 1878 agreement signed between Sultan Mohamet Jamal Al Alam (Sultan of Sulu) and Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent on Jan 22, 1878.

Malaysia took over the payments when it became the successor to the agreement following Sabah’s independence and the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

The Sulu claim also became an issue at the Sabah state assembly when a motion to debate the matter was rejected.

On July 12, The Financial Times reported that bailiffs in Luxembourg had seized subsidiaries PETRONAS Azerbaijan (Shah Deniz) and PETRONAS South Caucasus on behalf of their clients.

However, Malaysia had obtained a stay order on the RM63bil award. The assets have already been sold.

With the stay order, the final award, obtained by Spanish arbitrator Dr Gonzalo Stampa earlier, could not be enforced in any country pending a decision by the French court on the finality of the matter.

De facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the government was currently preparing for the hearing to quash the final award, although a hearing date had yet to be fixed.

Malaysia also filed criminal proceedings against Stampa for contempt of court in Madrid. This case is ongoing.

The controversial award obtained by Stampa has been disputed by Malaysia, which holds that he made the decision even as superior courts in Spain had issued a suspension order on the case.

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