Azalina: Latest Sulu claim is an ‘extortion scheme’

PETALING JAYA: The demand from the United Tausug Citizens for US$15bil (RM70bil) and recognition over Sabah is concerning and must be addressed by Malaysia, says Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reforms) likened UTC’s claims, which constitute about 16% of the national budget, to an extortion scheme.

“The UTC’s threat to sue Malaysia in the United States is alarming.

“We must address these spurious claims that risk 16% of our national budget and exploit arbitration for profit, akin to extortion schemes,” she said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday.

Such demands, she said, are a threat to the integrity of sovereign states and the principles of justice.

UTC had asked the Malaysian government for an immediate payment of US$15bil in what it dubbed as “cession money”.

The group also sought the recognition of UTC as a “sovereign and independent state kingdom”.

The UTC claims came after failed attempts by the so-called heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate to seek compensation totalling US$14.94bil (RM68.8bil) against Malaysia.

Azalina said she had spoken about the Sulu issue and risks of third-party litigation funding (TPLF) to state sovereignty when she was in France last year, and also at the 2024 Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting that took place in Zanzibar, Tanzania earlier this month.

“TPLF often prioritises profit over justice, challenging the core purpose of our legal system,” she said.

While litigation funding is crucial for access to justice, she said its multibillion-dollar industry status raises questions about its true intent.

“A lack of regulation poses a global threat, calling for urgent oversight,” she added.

Azalina said the secretive nature of TPLF in sham arbitrations necessitates global regulatory oversight and ethical standards to prevent abuse and exploitation.

“Calls for transparency in TPLF are growing,” she said, adding that US federal lawmakers and the European Parliament had proposed to regulate this industry and mitigate national security risks.

“Litigation funding must be transparent and regulated to prevent abuse.

“Malaysia advocates for ongoing dialogue to regulate this industry effectively,” she said.

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