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The Sulu Case is Evidence of Malaysia’s Defence of National Sovereignty.

The decision of the Paris Court of Appeal this week overturning an arbitration award amounting to US$15 billion to a group claiming to be the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu regarding land promises during the colonial era proves that the Malaysian government is indeed on the right side in defending the country’s sovereignty, the Foreign Minister said on Wednesday.

The Paris Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled that the arbitrator who ordered the Malaysian government to pay the compensation did not have jurisdiction in the case related to the colonial-era land deal in the Southeast Asian country.

“The decision of the French Court yesterday has marked a historic victory for Malaysia, thus proving that Malaysia is on the right side all this time in defending our rights while the case brought by the other side is an attempt for a specific purpose only,” said Foreign Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir to the media outside the House of Representatives.

The former Sultanate of Sulu consists of a small archipelago in the south of the Philippines, part of which is now in Malaysia, namely in the oil-rich Sabah.

A group of eight Filipinos who claimed to be the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, in February last year obtained a US$14.92 billion arbitration award against Malaysia from a court in France. They won on the basis that the Southeast Asian country in 2013 stopped making annual payments to the heirs involved as stipulated in the agreement in the 19th century.

Last July, the Paris Court of Appeal issued an order suspending the arbitration award because its enforcement could violate Malaysia’s sovereignty. The group claiming to be the heir to the Sulu sultanate challenged the decision in March but was rejected by the court.

Meanwhile, the Sulu plaintiffs, who were also represented by lawyer Paul Cohen, said they were disappointed with Tuesday’s decision and would study their options and continue the case in the French Supreme Court.

In an email to BenarNews, Cohen also criticized Malaysia’s approach in the case.

“In the process of this dispute, we had to struggle in trying to convince the international court regarding Malaysia’s attitude towards civil litigation and arbitration which can be misused. But recently the Malaysian government has shamelessly chosen to use an approach in such an extreme way, both at home and internationally,” said the United Kingdom-based lawyer.

“Malaysia seems hell-bent on destroying whatever reputation it might have for respecting civil law and its procedures, not to mention the limited accountability of its criminal justice system.”

Cohen was referring to the fact that Malaysia in April named one of the eight individuals it claimed, Fuad A Kiram, as a terrorist, alleging he was involved in a 2013 attack on the country.

A Malaysian official has publicly admitted to naming Fuad Kiram as a terrorist not just because of the attack but rather as an “attack” on a group that is targeting Malaysian assets.

In July last year, Malaysian oil company, Petronas received an order on the seizure of two units of its assets in Luxembourg following an attempt by a group claiming to be the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu to enforce the award obtained.

Malaysia is also faced with several applications filed by the Sulu group to seize national assets in Luxembourg and the Netherlands and government representatives are scheduled to attend court hearings at the end of June and September this year.

The involvement of Malaysians

Meanwhile, Law and Institutional Reforms Minister Azalina Othman Said said earlier Wednesday that some Malaysians are believed to be helping the heirs of the Sulu sultanate in pursuing their demands.

“We are gathering evidence. From what I have been informed, we suspect that there are Malaysians who are helping the claimant group,” he said in a special press conference before the Foreign Minister spoke on the same issue early Wednesday.

“Once we have enough information, I will ask the director-general in my department to track them down,” he added without revealing the number of Malaysians believed to be conspiring with the group.

Malaysia is also preparing to take legal action against the company that finances the group’s efforts, said the law minister.

“We have identified their sponsors. They are not from Asia. However, to protect Malaysia’s sovereignty, we will sue them,” he said again.

A British global litigation fund called Therium Capital Management Ltd. support the group. However, Malaysia did not disclose the identity or origin of the financiers, or details of the planned action against them.

On social media, Malaysians hailed the government’s victory in the award dispute case.

Yoichi Yoi on the social media site Facebook wrote that he hopes the Malaysian government will sue the Sulu group and hold them accountable for the invasion in 2013 even though they have consistently denied their involvement.

“Since they have started the invasion of Sabah, launched attacks and caused the deaths of Malaysians, it is appropriate that they be held accountable. Prove that Malaysia has sovereignty,” he said.

Another social media user, Hafizuddin Hahir, urged Malaysia to increase the level of security for fear of retaliation following the victory.

“The security forces need to be on the most alert level,” he said on his Twitter page.

“Following the defeat in the Sulu case, they may get angry and launch another attack. I hope they stay away from us.”

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