By Anne de Bretagne
When the Sabah lease was signed 134 years ago -- on the 22nd of January 1878, between the Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah and two foreign businessmen, the Sultanate ensured that their rights to Sabah ownership were protected with this all encompassing moral and legal clause clearly spelled out in the lease contract, to wit (lease shown, 2nd photo):
"...but the rights and powers hereby leased shall not be transferred to any nation, or a company of other nationality, without the consent of Their Majesties Government."
The whole Mindanao-Moro problem compounded by Malaysia's continuing support for the MILF right in the heart of Philippine Moro 'homeland' is without a shadow of doubt tied to the Philippine Sabah claim.
The Malaysians know it and the Filipinos know it but Kuala Lumpur will do everything in their power to make sure that the Philippines will not have a moment's respite to turn around and raise the Sabah claim. And the problem is being compounded by the fact that successive Chinese communities in Sabah have staged their own claim over Sabah and over the last couple of decades, they have been at it, trying to muster political support from the population of Sabah to claim "independence" from Malaysia.
As years go and while this problem is unsettled, there will be more problems -- political and military, that are bound to arise and could very well bring the Sabah question to the inevitable: armed conflict which it almost did back in the 60s when the Philippines attempted to take physical control of Sabah in a covert operation code-named "Operation Merdeka."
After 134 years, it is time to examine the contents of the lease and to bring them out in the open. The Republic of the Philippines -- and Malaysia, cannot continue to be blind. Sabah is either the Philippines' or it is not -- only a minitious examination of facts done in absolute good faith can determine final legal and moral ownership.
If the parties to the claim or to the counter claim refuse -- and that includes major counter claimant Malaysia, to adhere to the principle of good faith, I'm afraid, the peace and order problem in Mindano will continue as the rebel forces in Mindanao are encouraged, maintained and funded by the the current occupiers of Sabah. And unless we face this extremely sensitive Sabah question head on, there is every chance that we will be encouraging Malaysia to invade Mindanao by proxy.