Azalina: Dutch court ends Sulu heir’s jurisdiction hopping

PETALING JAYA: The Hague Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss claims brought by so-called heirs of the long-defunct Sultanate of Sulu for a purported arbitral award of US$14.9bil (RM62.59bil) to be enforced in the Netherlands confirms Malaysia’s position that the sham arbitration should never have taken place.

“The landmark judgment will likely render futile any further illegitimate attempts by the claimants and their funders to enforce it in other jurisdictions,” said Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (pic).

“The Hague Court of Appeal’s decision signifies Malaysia’s achievement in its ongoing legal challenge to deprive the enforcement of the purported awards globally, which is a threat to the entire international arbitration system,” she added.

The purported final award was issued by a Spanish arbitrator, Dr Gonzalo Stampa, on Feb 28, 2022, to eight individuals claiming to be heirs of the Sulu Sultanate.

Azalina added that the government has taken the necessary steps to obtain payment of the costs ordered against the claimants, following the Paris Court of Appeal’s decision of June 6 upholding Malaysia’s challenge against Dr Stampa’s earlier “Preliminary Award” on jurisdiction.

“The government shall ensure that the sovereignty, security and interests of Malaysia are protected and upheld at all times,” she said in a statement.

In Kota Kinabalu, Sabah leaders expressed hope that Malaysia’s victory would deter any further effort to undermine the nation’s sovereignty.

“The victory will be felt more by the people of Sabah who have been haunted by this demand to the extent that some parties claim that this case is being politicised besides heating up during election campaigns.

“Malaysia’s victory in the courts of appeal in the Hague and (earlier in) Paris, France, could be the end of all efforts by irresponsible parties who attempt to loot the country and undermine its sovereignty,” said Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin.

Parti Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said The Hague ruling on Tuesday and the Paris decision last June 6 to uphold the Malaysian government’s challenge against enforcing a partial award to the so-called heirs have given Malaysians high hopes that the “final award” by arbitrator Dr Gonzalo Stampa would be fully overturned.

“We pray that it will be a complete victory. This achievement in court is working towards ensuring that the claimants will no longer be entertained by any court or government in Europe or any other country,” Shafie said.

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal in the Hague decided in favour of Malaysia on compensation claims by the eight self-proclaimed heirs of the defunct Sulu sultanate against the country.

The court’s decision marks the nation’s third successful bid at thwarting attempts by the claimants seeking compensation totalling US$14.94bil (RM68.8bil) against Malaysia since 2019. They had failed in their bids in Spain and France earlier this year.

“We won and ended an unpleasant episode for the nation, which challenged the sovereignty of Malaysia.

“Thankfully, they failed,” said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in an immediate response to the news before returning to Malaysia after a two-day official visit to Laos on Tuesday.

Parti KDM president Datuk Peter Anthony said the court decision is important for Sabah, which had been the subject of disputes by parties claiming to be heirs to the sultanate, including the 2013 Lahad Datu intrusion.

“We at KDM also say well done and congratulate the unity government led by the Prime Minister, who has worked hard to deal with this matter,” he said.

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