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MANILA: The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo is not keen on retrieving from Sabah the bodies of its 28 fighters who have been reported as killed by Malaysian security forces since March 5.
“In line with the preaching of Islam, why would we still disturb the souls and the spirits of the deceased? They are now rested in peace,” said Abraham Idjirani, spokesman of the sultanate.
According to the teachings of Islam, a deceased person must be buried within 24 hours after his or her death. After the 17-day standoff erupted in a firefight on March 1, the Sulu sultanate asked Malaysia for a ceasefire to be able to bury their dead.
Since March 5, Malaysian security forces had conducted offensive operations to flush out Kiram’s followers. According to Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib, 61 of the sultan’s followers had been killed from March 5 to 15.
The Malaysian government had written the Philippine government regarding the repatriation of the bodies in three days, although it did not specify the dates for this period.
“We have sent the letters through our Foreign Ministry. In fact, today there will be a meeting between the Foreign Ministry and the Philippine Embassy. Technically the three-day period has not lapsed yet,” Taib said.
Idjirani said the offer of the Malaysian government to have the remains of the dead fighters retrieved and sent back to the Philippines is just another “black propaganda.”
Idjirani said should the Sultanate of Sulu agree to retrieve their dead fighters from Sabah, the retrieval team should be guaranteed immunity from arrest or harassment by a neutral country.
“Now the proposition of Malaysia is another black propaganda. First of all, there is no definition of conditions on how the retrieval is to be done. It is also very alarming on the part of the Sultanate of Sulu as without the intercession of a neutral country, Malaysia could order the arrest of the retrieval team and accuse them of being members of the Royal Security Force,” he said.
Idjirani added that the retrieval of the deceased fighters should be covered by media both local and international and be made in the presence of a neutral humanitarian organisation such as the Red Crescent or the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He also said that Malaysia should also allow an independent group to conduct autopsies on the remains of the dead sultanate fighters to prove that they were indeed killed in combat and were not tortured to death.
“If that should happen, we challenge Malaysia to allow an independent body to conduct autopsies on the remains,” he said
“We have still to solicit the consent of the relatives,” he added.
Idjirani believes that the 10 fighters earlier reported as captured by Malaysian security forces could have already been killed.
He said that the refusal of Malaysia to present the 10 could mean that they are already dead.
THE PHILIPPINE STAR