"Sabah Is Not In Malaysia" - Philippines Ambassador Summoned Over Controversial Tweet

The Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary has had a history of making outlandish claims on Twitter.

Cover image via Panay News & Bernama/New Straits Times

A controversial tweet by Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Monday, 27 July, has sparked a stern response from Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The tweet read, "Sabah is not in Malaysia if you want to have anything to do with the Philippines."

This was in response to an earlier post by the US embassy in the Philippines who revealed that it had donated 500 hygiene kits to "returning Filipino repatriates from Sabah, Malaysia".

Yesterday, 29 July, Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein labelled the tweet as "irresponsible" and has summoned the Philippines ambassador to Malaysia

Hishammuddin wrote, "This is an irresponsible statement that affects bilateral ties. @MalaysiaMFA will summon the Philippines Ambassador (Charles C Jose) on Monday (3 August) to explain. Sabah is, and will always be, part of Malaysia."

However, Locsin continues to insist that his claim has historical standing

In a tweet today, 30 July, the Foreign Affairs Secretary asserted, "You summoned our ambassador for a historically factual statement that I made: that Malaysia tried to derail the Arbitral Award."

The 2016 Arbitral Award refers to a case initiated and won by the Philippines after it challenged China over its claims to territories in the South China Sea.

Former Filipino congressman Teodoro Casiño, who was aligned with the political party Makabayan, gave his two cents in a tweet.

"It is an irresponsible tweet. But @teddyboylocsin is correct. Sabah was, and still should be, part of the Philippines," he wrote.

Locsin agreed with Casiño saying, "He (Jose) was already summoned. It was about to happen. They (Wisma Putra) are always trying to sneak in an attempt to implicitly abandon our claim. But I warned our diplomats. Never."

Sabah has been a point of contention between Malaysia and the Philippines for years.

What is the history behind this long-standing territorial dispute?

According to the International Court of Justice, the issue can be traced back to 1878 when the Sultanate of Sulu (parts of Mindanao in modern-day Philippines) and the British North Borneo Company signed an agreement. 

Depending on the translation used, the agreement stipulated that North Borneo was either leased or ceded to the British.

The first concession treaty signed by Sultan Abdul Momin of Brunei on 29 December 1877 (left) and the second concession treaty signed by Sultan Jamal ul-Azam of Sulu on 22 January 1878 (right).

Image via The Brunei Times

Malaysia interprets the agreement as the transfer of land to the British. 

So, when Malaya gained independence from the British in 1957, and proceeded to unite with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore to form the federation of Malaysia in 1963, it laid claim to Sabah. 

Two years ago, Malaysia rejected proposals by the Philippines government to include Sabah as the 13th federal state of the Philippines

CNA quoted former Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman as saying, "Sabah is recognised by the United Nations and the international community as part of Malaysia since the formation of the Federation on 16 September 1963."

"Therefore, statements such as these will only expose the ignorance of history and international law of those who make them, as well as potentially harming the excellent bilateral relations which Malaysia and the Philippines currently enjoy."

Former foreign minister Anifah Aman.

Image via The Malaysian Reserve

In the past, Locsin has had a track record of expressing outlandish statements and declaring policy pronouncements on Twitter

According to Rappler, he was locked out of his account on 9 March after having violated the platform's community guidelines with a tweet threatening to shoot members of the political party Bayan. 

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal today, 30 July, announced that the state assembly has now been dissolved:

These tweets have put certain individuals in sticky situations:

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