Friday, March 8, 2013

The Politics of Oil and Oil Palm Plantations

The ragtag Royal Sulu Army prepare to invade Sabah

Below are spontaneous comments on the Sulu invasion of Sabah I left on various conversation threads over the past week. It's a vastly complex and multi-layered issue made urgent by the outbreak of violence which has cost nearly 100 lives on both sides. Brute force is an entirely inefficient and primitive way to resolve differences. These notes serve as a starting point for a wider discussion...

Taking on the Tausugs
A few hundred years ago, the Industrial Revolution was in its early stages. Nobody in this part of the world could foresee that all those hectares of jungle would someday be viewed as prime real estate - especially if oil deposits exist just off the coast. Can't blame the Sulu or Brunei Sultans for being so generous with parceling out their lands in exchange for small favors.

The wheel of fate and fortune spins. Here we are in 2013, and the Sulu people - mostly living in poverty compared to richer folks in the north and across the waters in what is now Sabah - suddenly realize they have been given a very raw deal. But short of wresting Sabah back by force of arms, they can only appeal to an international court for justice. So it's a complex legal issue made more complicated by all the secrecy surrounding it.

For example, we read that as recently as February 2011 the Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines actually offered RM350,000 to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III if he would extend the lease by another 100 years. This only reinforces the Sulu Sultan's insistence that padjak means "lease" - not outright sale.

Jamalul Kiram III, self-proclaimed Sultan of Sulu
Beyond any doubt there is an issue to be resolved peaceably and wisely, using a win-win formula. Malaysia has further compounded the problem by being in denial that the Sultan of Sulu and his heirs do have a legal right to cancel the lease and reclaim their ancestral lands - and they could also opt to sell the land outright for an agreed-upon sum. If I were the Sultan, I'd find the Malaysian government offer of RM350,000 for a 100-year lease extension insulting, in view of what Sabah is worth. If the Malaysian government does not recognize Jamalul Kiram III as the legitimate Sultan of Sulu, why didn't it discontinue payment of the ridiculous RM5,300 annual rent?

Not only that, rumors abound that during Mahathir's tenure, the Malaysian government was secretly financing the Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines - just as suspicion remains that the Muslim insurgents in southern Thailand are on friendly terms with Malaysia - or at least Umno and Pekida.

The only intelligent and reasonable path is to tell the truth - no matter how bad that makes Umno and Mahathir look (especially since they already look so bad it can hardly get any worse). What's done cannot be undone. If there are already 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah - a vast number with Malaysian identity cards and voting rights, what is to be done?

Accept them as our brethren and include them in our development programs? Or evict them by force? Obviously, the most compassionate solution is always the most enlightened. Sadly, the present Umno/BN regime doesn't have a clue what compassion, enlightenment and wisdom mean - all they know is how to skim fat commissions off unnecessary and environmentally ruinous mega-projects. That's why the bottom line is still... ABU!

A Malaysian armored car rushes into the fray

Warlordism, feudal traditions, monarchies trapped in a timewarp... these are the last vestiges of an era soon to be viewed as a bad dream of humanity's infancy.

Only 200 years ago the world was a very different scenario. Nobody thought it was necessary to live in harmony with Mother Nature. Natural resources were regarded as a means to immense wealth - timber, gold, diamonds, rivers and seas teeming with fish, forests filled with all manner of fauna and flora.

The Moro National Liberation Front, one of many
militant Islamic factions in southern Philippines (www.mnlf.net)
It was a time when an ambitious, strong-willed tribal chief could consolidate his power among neighboring tribes and become an even bigger chief, a panjandrum who could rule by fear and force of arms. The Dream of Empire drove men like Alexander, Genghis Khan, Attila, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to audacious extremes.

Tausug youth
Well, folks, those ways cannot be sustained in the 21st century - not when the rise of a global middle-class and the spread of information and knowledge have empowered ordinary folk everywhere, who no longer feel a superstitious awe of their hereditary leaders, who have outgrown the habit of kowtowing before unsmiling despots issuing decrees from ornate thrones. Alas, in the less developed regions of the world, such anachronisms still persist - and Southeast Asia has witnessed a tectonic shift in social and political changes since 1913 - and these changes have dramatically accelerated over the last 50 years.

What we're seeing now in Sabah is the deaththroes of insular tribalism, of fierce competition for land and natural resources. This worldview is completely at odds with scientific advances that reveal how all life is interconnected and interdependent - and that symbiotic cooperation can produce synergies that will elevate humanity to an exciting new level of consciousness that is holistic and synchronized with cosmic cycles.The younger generations are ready for this - but it appears their elders are still stuck in their petrified, doctrinaire ways of experiencing reality.

They may look like ballet dancers - but I wouldn't want to start a feud with these Moro warriors

You just have to admire the courage and perseverance of the Tausug. Far better to have such hardy warriors as our friends and allies than as our permanent enemies. If their grouse is being neglected, marginalized and impoverished for generations, it's far wiser - and less costly in the long-term - to help them out financially. I'm sure the amount squandered just to get Psy to perform for 8 minutes in Penang would have helped the Tausug regain a sense of dignity and well-being.

Tausug men in the early 20th century
Sometimes, it takes a crisis to shake us up and remind us that beyond race, religion and nationality... we are all part of the human family. Indeed, most folks who resort to violence and crime are forced to do so because nobody was paying attention to their desperate needs. Aerial attacks on a small group of Tausugs equipped with only small arms does strike me as overkill. I'm sure there are less violent strategies...

No doubt this is one complex and convoluted issue that cannot be resolved elegantly and wisely - unless everybody agrees to shift to a higher, more inclusive perspective - and this is when I start looking at Abraham and shaking my head. How could one guy cause so much bloodshed and conflict over so many generations? Obviously the Middle Eastern portal through which the Book Religions were inserted into the 3D Matrix is controlled by renegade reptilians who will do anything to keep people divided and easily misruled - and nothing does that better than monotheist dogma and entrenched dualism.

SABAH CLAIMS: A tale of two versions


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