By Hb Zakaria bin Abdullah
February 18 , 2011
The movement for decolonization of the Sultanate of Sulu Darul Islam (SSDI) was spearheaded by Datu Ladjamura “Uda” bin Datu Wasik Aranan, now known as Paduka Mahasari Sultan Bantilan Muhammad Mu’izzuddin II. Although there were others engaged in similar undertaking in their own stride, such as Asreemoro or Asreesulu, me and a few others thru the print and electronic media, it was Datu Uda who singlehandedly brought the message to the grassroots of the Tausug masses breaking several myths along the way. Julasri “Asreemoro or Asreesulu” Hajad wrote a book, Tausug and the Sultanate of Sulu, that had reopened many slumbering hearts and minds of Tausugs to reality and revived the hopes and aspirations of the majority. For my part and few others, we could only make web postings to propagate the issue.
Among the myths that existed in the hearts and minds of the Tausugs were that any form of independence movement must have to go through armed struggle to succeed. Another myth is that the sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu had already lapsed and subsumed to the colonial government through various acts of the sultans, the last being the Carpenter Agreement of 1913 between Sultan Jamalul Kiram II and Frank W. Carpenter of the USA, the then governor general of the Moro Province. The most dreaded myth is that; the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) won’t hesitate to massacre any group that would seek to create an independence movement or to raise another flag different from the Philippine’s.
Where all other proponents of the Sulu Sultanate’s revival failed, Datu Uda succeeded. He didn’t have even a single armed security escort throughout his campaign, although he made a number of enemies amongst the aspirants to the sultanate who wanted to eliminate him by any means. Since his rivals are afraid to kill him frontally, they used unconventional means through dark and evil manipulations.
Bored and long feeling insecure under the aegis of Philippine colonial administration, the masses readily threw their support behind the call of Datu Uda for Tausug unity to restore the lost monarchy of the “Sulu Empire.” Still cognizant of the prosperity the Tausug masses enjoyed under the previous monarchies, even without giving hints that their present predicament could be turned around, they already have felt the difference and bright prospects.
Datu Uda had already covered around 70 percent of Sulu province, had organized a number of rallies and demonstrations, and raised a number of Flags when Atty. Meltino Ulung Sibulan joined the movement. Datu Uda welcomed the participation of the attorney with high hopes he can pave the way for the message to be brought to the level of the graduates and professionals in urban cities and the international community. Such was the expectation laid on the shoulder of the attorney even though he chose to go to the rural areas which had already accepted the message, rather than the urban areas highly expected of him. The trust and confidence accorded the attorney by Datu Uda was so high that it amounted to almost a blanket authority. For some time the partnership endured and prospered until the attorney concurred with the masses in 2009 that it was time to crown Datu Uda as Sultan. Still not settled to accept the title by virtue of his financial and residential insecurity, he declined. He neither had any financial backing or sponsor, nor a permanent house that can be called his “Astanah.” But with the solid assurance of mass leaders and the attorney himself, Datu Uda obliged. He was crowned Sultan at a simple but meaningful ceremony in Jolo on March 19, 2009. Almost simultaneously, a royal charter was produced for all to endorse or ratify without the benefit of getting to know what the contents was all about. Anyway, as there was no reason for suspicion to creep in, everybody signed the constitution. After which, the Sultan was made to understand that, from then on, he will have to wait for what the Rumah Bichara would legislate for him to act on anything. Still, the Sultan obliged as he knew he is not above the constitution. Although he already felt something fishy was cooking, he kept his cool and tried to telescope the movement from behind the scenes. But for keeping himself out of the limelight, according to the Constitution, the attorney later accused him of doing nothing!
My desire to join the thick of the movement was always hindered by financial difficulties. So, for a time I had to be contented with monitoring the issue through Asreesulu who was the only most privileged among us in West Malaysia. Asree rarely missed most of the major gatherings organized by the sultanate in Jolo and Zamboanga cities.
Unfortunately, as later on suspected, Atty Ulung squandered the trust and confidence, and the vast authority afforded him by the Sultan. He still had the nerve to go out of his way to usurp the functions and prerogatives of the Sultan. To reinforce his stature in the movement, he invited Datu Albi Ahmad, a retiree from public service, who also adopted Julkarnain (of the Royal Sultanate of Patikul) as his surname. Without the concurrence of other SSDI leaders, including Datu Uda, the attorney appointed Datu Albi prime minister, leaving no way for others to vet Albi’s background and qualification. But in the interest of unity, the majority accepted Albi without any pre-condition, in an interim capacity.
Prior to the declaration of assertion of independence of SSDI, the proposal prepared by the UTC was mocked at by Atty Ulung, relegating it to third class of the three proposals under consideration. But we kept our cool and patience, preventing a debate that could hurt some member’s sensitivities. But after the affair, it was proved that the UTC proposal was the most logical and should be the one implemented. Yet, nobody called on the attorney to retract his unkind words against the UTC and the proponents of the proposal. That was the extent played by the UTC to maintain harmony and understanding no matter how others had maligned our integrity. Foremost in our hearts and minds is the interest of the sultanate, even though other people put our integrity under odium and contempt.
Towards the November 17, 2010 Declaration of Assertion of Independence of the Sultanate of Sulu Darul Islam, only a few of us were planning for the parade and other activities including the venue. The Atty was always evasive, refusing to sit down with us, as if to say he is more capable than anyone in the leadership circle. So, we prepared only a simple program just in case he can’t produce anything. Anyway, we gave him the benefit of the doubt, carefully shielding the real status from the masses. But our sincere efforts took a toll in their sustained machination. The Divine verdict was to edge them out – that they, on their own accord, decided to part ways on a wrong premise, on their own accord.
First, they decided to go on a massive campaign in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. Publicly, they denounced the Sultan as unfit to rule due to being poor and had no proper education. The masses who were already committed to the Cause, took up the cudgels to preserve the integrity of the Sultan and braced themselves for a showdown with the group. The Sultan also rallied up a defensive shield, mobilizing the grassroots support who pledged loyalty to hm. The rumour mongers had to leave Bongao in haste as the masses took up arms for possible confrontation with the power usurpers. With their bad intentions already unveiled and repudiated by the people, feeling guilty of insubordination and usurping the power of the Sultan, the recalcitrant group decided to find a noble way out. Their case against the Sultan was in anyway shallow and negligible.
Motivated by their avarice for money and power, they went out of the norms and legal practice to crown an impostor. The Atty-Albi tandem targeted the millionaire datu in Sabah to be crowned sultan using their interim positions in SSDI. Their intentions found the match in the Sabah datu, who offered them fat bonuses and government recognition through playing politics. They thought by declaring their intention “to drop the Sabah Claim” they can get the full support of the Malaysian government. They thought the Malaysian government can be hoodwinked by their intermediate grade antics, unmindful of the fact that Malaysia is comparable to the best among nations in their intelligence services. For their blunder, their newly crowned sultan found his way into the detention centre of the State, with the majority of Malaysians, including the Tausugs in Sabah recommending their indictment.
Obviously, the attorney had from his entry to SSDI been planning a ‘coup d’etat’. During most of his lectures, he was campaigning for loyalty to himself, or at least against the sultan. Little did he realize that the people were already politicize and convinced that the Movement initiated by Datu Uda was to crown a sultan of his stature. Therefore, although the people were hoodwinked to register under the Atty’s faction of UTP (people), they believed their registrations were anyhow for the Sultanate and not for the individual. So the attorney could only be counting the wrong chicks in his hatchery, using it to tell the people he commands the majority of the Tausug membership in the SSDI