Dr M: I supported decision to stop Sulu payments, govt should have studied repercussions

PETALING JAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) says he supported former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s decision in 2013 to stop the annual payment of RM5,300 to the heirs of the Sulu sultanate after the armed incursion in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

However, Dr Mahathir questioned if the process of stopping the payment then was in accordance with the law and followed the process of cancelling the old agreement in order to avoid disputes.

“I heard at that time Najib made a statement that he would not pay (the territory surrender fee).

“At that time, I only supported him. He was the one who made the decision.

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“But, I was told that the decision was not referred to the Cabinet and the Dewan Rakyat (in 2013) and (it was as if) he decided on his own,” he said when met at the Discourse on the Direction of the Education System and Online Learning programme, at which he was a panellist, on Sunday (July 24).

The Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) chairman said the government at that time should have first reviewed the decision to stop the payment, and confirmed that armed intruders in Sabah were connected to the self-styled heirs of the Sulu sultanate.

“We are the ones who promised to pay this amount every year, so we have to fulfil our promise (despite) the attack. So we had to study first and confirm if the attackers (were from) the Sulu sultanate.

“Only then can we stop (paying). But there was no study, (we) just stopped (paying),” he was reported to have said.

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Dr Mahathir said it was this action that caused the heirs to continue pressing their claim on Sabah in international arbitration courts.

“That is what caused the problem we are facing now. Before this, there was no problem. Every year we would pay.

“When we stopped, they took the case to the Spanish court. But we do not recognise the court in Spain.

“(In a dispute) both parties must give opinions in defence of their position.

“However, this is a one-sided decision.

“So we have never (acknowledged) the authority (of) the Spanish court,” he said.

Taking the Batu Putih issue as an example, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia agreed with the claimant that the issue be referred to the international court.

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The Sulu heirs’ claims continue to be hotly discussed following reports stating that the assets of two PETRONAS subsidiaries in Azerbaijan were seized by their legal representatives.

The heirs were awarded US$14.92bil (RM62.59bil) from Malaysia by arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa in a Paris arbitration court where Malaysia was not represented.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar then said the Paris Court of Appeal granted a stay order to the Malaysian government in its application to suspend the enforcement of the award.

He had said the stay order was requested on the grounds that the award compromised Malaysia’s sovereign immunity.