Unlike the Sabahan comments on the Malaysian Sulu Sultan, this article
from Singapore is a much better neutral analysis although its facts
are not complete because they are not Tausug and would therefore miss
a few details. A good academic reference will be the UMS book by Bala
The rights of the Sultanate of Sulu over Sabah is recognised by United
Kingdom and the Malaysian government keeps on paying the rental in
current US dollars. Because the claimants are too poor, they cannot
ask for more money for inflation adjustment, but I am pretty sure that
any International court will grant an inflation or devaluation
adjustment for the sake of justice. After all, the amount will still
be not more than a few million RM.
However the Filipinoes, via the Philippine government, asks for absurd
amount of money equivalent to the entire GDP of Sabah that includes
its oil revenue. Even the State Government of Sabah does not get that
much money. Most of it has gone to the Federal Government of Malaysia.
This kind of greed will never be accepted by any world court.
This kind of rental agreement is very common even among Malaysian
states. There was a case of the Kedah state claiming from Penang
State. Penang used to be administered by the British who rent the
island from the Sultan of Kedah.
Many Malaysians are also of the Tausug descent and many have royal
blood. It is common for the Sultan to send his relatives to administer
his states. Conflicts among the true descendents are also common so
that a more deserving line is neglected. In the current case, the old
line had been cut off because of the lack of heir. That means other
lines, such as claimed by Akjan still has the basis. His PM, is
actually a Filipino lawyer from Zamboanga. I read an article
describing how he tried to find the true sultan of Sulu instead of the
This Akjan is a very successful businessman, no doubt as a result of
capital raised by selling ICs to his fellow immigrants. He was caught
and imprisoned via ISA, i.e. detention without any trial, which means
that the true story is not known. The real story is most likely that
he is not selling fake ICs but REAL ICs produced by the Registration
department. This is the only plausible explanation because if he
really was seling fake ICs, he should have been charged under
Malaysian civil laws. He wasn't charged with any illegal infringement.
Even oppositiion parties, such as the one led by Yong Teck Lee, just
does not bother to check the facts and assume that this Akjan is
actually guilty of endangering the security of Malaysia even without
any trial being conducted.
Those artifacts probably had been around in Sabah for a long time. In
fact, a few Sabahans and brought them to the Sultan of Brunei for
verification but because the words include the subjugation of the
Sultan of Brunei, they were sent back to Sabah after their hair was
made bold. This Akjan could have managed to get hold of these
artifacts and claim to be the Sultan of Sulu and this Filipino lawyer
believed him. No doubt enticed by him.
As to Malaysians claiming to be the Sultan of Sulu, it is not strange
at all. Many Sabahans are also claimants to the throne by virtue of
their birth rights. Those with traditional Datu titles which include
Datu Mustapha, the first TYT, Johar bin Datu Mahirudin(Johar does not
use the Datu title) current TYT are Tausug people that have Sulu
royalty blood in them. In fact, Pandikar Amin, the current speaker,
although an Iranun(actually LANUN), also has the Datu title, which
means that his ancestors are actually Tausug. Many Sabahans just don't
bother with these titles and forget about them as being useless. Only
the Filipinoes in their hundreds, want to claim this right but on
paper many have already surrendered their rights to the Filipino
government, no doubt paid outright.
But Sabahan Tausug, labeled here as Orang Suluk, by the British in our
birth certificates, are never consulted. We have just as much right as
they are in determining who the Sultan of Sulu should be. In fact,
SAbahans have more right than those Filipinoes because Sulu State
there is not sovereign and can be considered as a conquered state,
whereas SAbah can be considered as independent. As for the true Sulu
sultan, it is not strictly hereditary, but by concensus. This is also
common in many states in Malaysia, a good example is at Negeri
As a SAbahan Suluk, I don't like this Akjan. His loyalty is suspicious
because he is not born in Sabah. The cultures of the Filipino Tausugs
are different from Sabahan Suluks. I would rather make Juhar as our
Sultan than this uneducated Akjan. This will silence the claims by the
Filipinoes who want to claim the whole of Sabah, contrary to the
rental agreement. The rental agreement only cover Kudat to Tawau, i.e.
the eastern part of Sabah, i.e. no oil revenue.
Many Sabahans especially the non-Muslims are against this Sultan of
Sulu in Sabah. But it is not strange that a Sultan or King can be just
like an ordinary citizen. Even the Emperor of China used to be treated
like that, but everyone knows that he is the emperor of China but
without any sovereignty. Similarly for Indonesia. There are many
sultans there that are just ordinary citizens.
In Malaysia also, it is not illegal to use various titles, such as
Tengku, Raja, Megat, Mior, Syed, Sharifah, Siti etc. Usually these
people have reasons to use these titles due to hereditary rights but
because they are not controlled, many people just use the title Siti
without any significance at all. In SAbah, I don't find such misuse of
the word Datu among Sabahans, only filipinoes.Many Sabahans like
Pandikar and Juhar, don't bother to extend their parent's datukship,
or rather their parents don't include it in their names, except DAtuk
Khalik Zaman was awarded a DAtukship by Harris Salleh, but later
retracted, so he changed his name to Datuk Khalik Zaman. You can see
his name at his Villa at Petagas.
Browse: Home / Analysis / A New 'Sultan' of Sulu in Malaysia:
Implications for Politics and Bilateral Ties
A New 'Sultan' of Sulu in Malaysia: Implications for Politics and
Written by: RSIS
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For decades there have been many contenders to the title of the Sultan
of Sulu. Recently a Malaysian citizen has proclaimed himself to be the
'real Sultan of Sulu'. The consequences of this proclamation will be
felt in Malaysian domestic politics and may affect Malaysia-Philippine
By Farish A Noor
FOR DECADES there have been many contenders to the title of the Sultan
of Sulu. Since late 2010 the debate over who was the rightful heir to
the throne arose again in the East Malaysian state of Sabah. Then the
self-styled 'Prime Minister of the Sultanate of Sulu', Datu Albi Ahmad
Julkarnain, announced that the 'Sulu government' would soon declare
the identity of the real inheritor to the throne of Sulu, and by so
doing desist in all its claims to Sabah.
The New 'Sultan of Sulu'
In the first week of February 2011 a local Sabahan sub-contractor and
businessman Datu Mohd Akjan bin Datu Ali Muhammad, was declared as the
real 'Sultan of Sulu' at a ceremony in Kota Kinabalu. The event was
witnessed by 60 representatives from the various Tausug communities of
Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Sulu and Sabah. With the proclamation of Datu
Akjan as the reigning Sultan of Sulu with the title Sultan Paduka
Mahasari Maulana al-Marhum Sultan Shariful-Hashim II, the Sulu
'government' officially relinquished its claims to Sabah. The
rationale was that since the 1970s the Malaysian government had been
kind to Sulu exiles who fled from the Philippines.
Immediately after the proclamation, local politicians from East
Malaysia raised the question of how a Malaysian citizen could
unilaterally declare himself as the sovereign of another country. The
former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee of the Sabah Progressive
Party urged the Malaysian government to clarify the matter, citing the
allegations against Mohd Akjan and stating that he had once been
allegedly detained for fabricating identity cards in Sabah.
The former chief minister also noted that it was highly irregular to
have a Malaysian citizen proclaim himself to be the Sultan of a
separate state and head of a foreign government-in-exile, and not to
pledge loyalty to the King of Malaysia and the Malaysian constitution.
Other Sabah politicians including former senator Chong Eng Leong also
added that this recent development might contribute to more foreigners
coming to settle in Sabah.
Problem of an extinct kingdom
The problem of Sulu is a complex one. The Sultanate of Sulu – it once
covered an area that extended from the Sulu and Palawan islands,
across the Spratly islands, Basilan and parts of North Borneo,
including present-day Sabah – ceased to exist after its last ruler
Sultan Muhammad Fadzlun was forced to surrender his power in 1862.
When Sabah became part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1962 the
Philippines was initially hostile to the move as it claimed that Sabah
was once part of the kingdom of Sulu, and that Sulu was part of the
From 1962 to the late 1990s, many Filipino citizens had fled the
conflict zone of Southern Philippines and settled in Malaysia. Critics
of the new 'Sultan of Sulu' have claimed that he falls into the same
category of citizens of ambiguous origin. According to local media
reports, 'Sultan' Akjan was born in Jambangan, Nipah-Nipah on 23
November 1957 but his Malaysian identity card states that he was born
in Sabah on 7 July 1957.
The complications that may arise from this curious event are manifold:
Firstly, it raises the question of the dual loyalties of those former
Philippine citizens who were allowed to settle in Malaysia and to
assume Malaysian citizenship. 'Sultan' Akjan's detractors in Sabah
have presented him as a foreigner who has lived in Malaysia under the
protection of Malaysian law, but who now claims to be the ruler of a
separate state – thereby raising questions related to the loyalty of
Malaysian citizens to the King (Yang di Pertuan Agong) of Malaysia and
the Malaysian constitution.
Secondly, this new development has further raised the political
temperature in Sabah where opposition leaders and parties have tried
in recent months to rekindle feelings of Sabahan solidarity and
opposition to the Federal government of West Malaysia. Sabah
politicians like Yong Teck Lee have once against raised the issue of
the granting of Malaysian citizenship status to foreigners in Sabah,
which local Sabah opposition leaders claim has led to the relative
shrinking of the size of the original Sabahan population thanks to the
influx of foreign migrants, both legal and illegal.
Implications for Malaysia-Philippines relations
Thirdly it raises the thorny question of how the Philippines would
react to the claim by Datu Mohd Akjan/ Sultan Shariful-Hashim II. The
Philippine government had already installed its own monarch in Sulu,
whom Manila claims to be the rightful Sultan of Sulu. At the
investiture ceremony in February 2011, both Datu Mohd Akjan/ Sultan
Shariful-Hashim II and his Prime Minister Datu Albi Ahmad Julkarnain
claimed that the Sulu Sultanate was not a part of the Philippines and
has never been a part of the Philippines – a move that was bound to
upset the Philippine government in Manila.
By claiming themselves to be the real (albeit virtual) government of
Sulu in exile, Sultan Shariful-Hashim II and Datu Albi Ahmad were also
claiming by extension that the present-day rulers and government of
Sulu who are backed by the Philippine government are illegitimate.
They insisted that the matter would eventually be brought to the
International Court of Justice and the United Nations, and that one
day the Sultanate of Sulu ought to be recognised as an independent
Sultanate in its own right.
Thus what began as a seemingly obscure and trivial matter may have
long-term repercussions and consequences to the internal politics of
Malaysia/Sabah as well as Malaysian-Philippines relations.
Farish A Noor is a Senior Fellow with the Contemporary Islam Programme
at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang
About the author:
RSISRSIS Commentaries are intended to provide timely and, where
appropriate, policy relevant background and analysis of contemporary
developments. The views of the author/s are their own and do not
represent the official position of the S.Rajaratnam School of
International Studies (RSIS), NTU, which produces the Commentaries.
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