It appears that the Philippines is continuing with its illegal and fantasy-driven claim on Sabah. Its Foreign Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr has recently announced plans to reactivate the country’s so-called “North Borneo Bureau” while claiming that “Sabah is ours (the Philippines)”.

Make no mistake, Sabah is and will remain an integral part of Malaysia. The Philippines revival of its “claim” is a desperate attempt to distract its public from the monumental failures of the Rodrigo Duterte administration, including its badly bungled Covid-19 response.

Nevertheless, it represents an affront to Malaysia’s sovereignty and dignity which cannot be ignored.

Secretary Locsin’s actions are nothing less than an attempt to interfere in our country’s democratic processes, especially given that Sabah is undertaking state elections at this very moment.

They are moreover a breach of the ASEAN principle of non-interference in the affairs of member states. It is unfortunate that they are engaging in such divisive actions at a time when Southeast Asia ought to be standing together in the face of attempts by certain superpowers to divide our region and turn it into a battleground for their geopolitical rivalries with each other.

While it is right for Malaysia to not entertain the Philippine claims, our government must also consider a stronger response if the latter does not cease and desist from its wild rhetoric.

As the saying goes: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” There is a danger that this might become a reality if we fail to take active steps to put a stop to the Philippines’ aggressive attempts to delegitimise Sabah’s rightful place as part of Malaysia.

The Philippines actions are not that of a friend. The Malaysian government must do much, much more than it has done so far to protect our country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
CHAIR OF PARLIAMENTARY DEFENCE AND HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

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