KOTA KINABALU, July 21 — Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal has today denied knowledge of a purported letter sent by former attorney general (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas in 2019 to the self-styled Sulu Sultanate “heirs” acknowledging their right to be paid an annual stipend.
The Parti Warisan president, who was Sabah chief minister then, said that he did not have any say in matters over the AG, and clarification should come from Thomas himself.
“If they don’t know about it, what more me? I don’t have any say in the AG’s actions. So if the prime minister doesn’t know, I wouldn’t know either.
“This question should be posed to Tommy Thomas himself,” said Shafie.
Thomas’ controversial letter allegedly expressed the willingness of the Malaysian government to pay the outstanding arrears of RM48,000 in cession payments since 2013 and this was used by the lawyers for the Sulu heirs as Malaysia’s recognition of the claimants.
Malaysia had been paying the “heirs” of the now defunct Sultanate an annual stipend of RM5,300 based on an agreement made in 1878 during the British era when the Sultanate “leased” the land to North Borneo.
Malaysia stopped the payments after a 2013 intrusion by armed militia of the Sultanate.
Shafie said that there were two scenarios of concern — one was former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ceasing the payment in 2013 after the Sulu intrusion and a letter from Thomas to the Sulu heirs’ lawyers.
Najib had yesterday asserted that the PH government’s acknowledgement of the Sulu heirs’ claim could have long term consequences as it has “acknowledged that Sabah really belongs to the Sulu representatives”.
That letter had been used as evidence by lawyers representing the Sulu sultan’s heirs to refute Malaysia’s rejection of their identity and used by Spanish arbitrator Gonzales Stampa in his judgement for the award in favour of the purported heirs in March earlier this year.
He ruled that Malaysia was obliged to pay the Sulu “descendants” at least RM62.59 billion in compensation.
Later, it was reported that two Petronas Luxembourg-registered subsidiaries, Petronas Azerbaijan (Shah Deniz) and Petronas South Caucasus, were seized on Monday following Stampa’s arbitration ruling.