Wake-up call for the 'sultan'

By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

Seen from the TV screen, this old man couldn't have been more common looking.

Putting it in a crude manner, he looks desolate and desperate.

The old man's name is Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, but whichever way I look at him, he just doesn't look like a noble sultan that we know.

He is dressed like anyone else in the street, often a so-so T-shirt and a pair of outfashioned sunglasses probably meant to conceal his defective right eye. The right corner of his mouth is slightly distorted, probably due to an old stroke.

And sure enough when he starts talking, he stammers.

When he appears on TV, the surrounding looks pretty crowded, a telltale sign he could be living in a very cramped environment, too cramped for the camera crew to capture a decent angle.

He simply looks down and out!

But this old man has instructed some 200 of his "army" to encroach on other people's territory. It is said that another 10,000 of his supporters are ready to cross into Sabah to join the gunmen's excursion.

He has turned the whole Malaysia and the Philippines upside down. To make things worse, eight Malaysians have perished because of his foolhardy plan.

He seems to enjoy the highest status among the nine self-proclaimed heirs to the Sulu Sultanate, thanks to the recognition from Manila.

He spends most of his time in Manila, from where he passes down his orders, far from what he claims his Sulu territory.

He ordered his brother to go into Sabah in an apparently impossible suicidal mission.

The Malaysian government put up with him for quite some time, trying to get his people to surrender through amiable talks. Manila, in the meantime, has wanted him to come to terms with the reality and has dispatched a warship to bring his people home.

But the old man stayed recalcitrant and at times almost cold-blooded, ordering his followers to fight till the last drop of blood.

He would rather see his followers perish because of his hopeless crusade to advance his sovereignty claims without realising that the Sulu Sultanate was already wiped out after the Spaniards landed on the archipelago.

His ancestors leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company for quite a lucrative sum of money back in those years, although the RM5,000 annual rent he pockets today is hardly enough to maintain his humble residence in Manila.

All that he owns today is nothing more than that cramped house in the Philippine capital, and the sovereignty he claims is nothing more than empty talks uttered out of his mouth.

Weirdly, his "sultan" stature and territorial illusions have succeeded in inspiring a group of fans willing to kill or be killed at his instructions.

His more realistic objective could have been wrestling some power from Malacanang Palace prior to the establishment of Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Take a second look at his face, and you will discover that he is not merely a desperate old man living on the fantasies of his past kingdom, he is also a selfish, atrocious and blood-thirsty tyrant.

Some international legal scholar has proposed that the Malaysian government get the old man extradited and charged for waging a war and abetted murders.

The proposal makes sense, but the highly intricate political ecosystem in Manila and the passionate emotions of the Suluks mean he will likely escape legal apprehension in the end.

Hopefully he has learned a lesson from this self-destructive mission.