What Is Obama’s Take On North Borneo (Sabah) Standoff?

By Joseph Lariosa

“Men take advantage of weakness of other men. They’re just like countries that way. The strong man takes the weak man’s land.”
-Lolo Soetero Mangunharjo, stepfather of President Barack Obama (“Dreams from My  Father”) © 1995

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – Barack Obama was probably in the third or fourth grade of his impressionable years in the late sixties in Jakarta, Indonesia when he asked his stepfather Lolo (Soetero Mangunharjo) if he ever saw a man killed.

Lolo answered, “Yes.” And Barack asked again, “Was it bloody?” Lolo answered, “Yes.”In his book, Dreams from My Father (Random House, 1995/Kodansha Globe 1996), the grade school boy, who would be the 44th United States President, asked again, “Why was the man killed? The one you saw?”

Lolo answered, “Because he was weak. That’s all. That’s usually enough. Men take advantage of weakness of other men. They’re just like countries that way. The strong man takes the weak man’s land. He makes the weak man work in his fields. If the weak man’s woman is pretty, the strong will take her.” He paused to sip water, then, asked, “Which would you rather be?”

“I didn’t answer,” Obama said, and Lolo squinted up at the sky. “Better to be strong,” he said finally rising to his feet. “If you can’t be strong, be clever and make peace with someone who’s strong. But always better to be strong yourself. Always.”

These quotes from Mr. Obama’s bestseller reminded me of the attempt of some 200 heirs and followers of the Sultan of Sulu, who tried to reclaim North Borneo or Sabah from Malaysia. Among them were several dozens of Royal Army of Sultan bodyguards.

Instead of negotiating with Sultan of Sulu landlords, the Malaysian Army used all its might and attacked the members of the Royal Army. Malaysia used a sledgehammer, instead of a flyswatter, by killing several dozens of the helpless Filipino landowners. Less than a dozen Malaysian policemen were also killed. 

But Malaysian Army kept on attacking the Filipinos, despite appeals of the United Nations  for a ceasefire, and violated the human rights of the Filipinos, who were arrested.

The young Obama’s nearly four-year stay in Indonesia gave him a brief knowledge of history of Indonesia, which was colonized for centuries by Netherlands (Dutch) and the Japanese during World War II.

OBAMA KNOWS THE REGION IS OIL RICH

In his book, Mr. Obama wrote, “[b]efore leaving Hawaii, she (his mother Stanley Ann Dunham) had tried to learn all she could about Indonesia: the population, fifth in the world, with hundreds of tribes and dialects; the history of colonialism, first the Dutch for over three centuries, then the Japanese during the war, seeking control over vast stores of oil, metal, and timber; the fight for independence after the war and the emergence of a freedom fighter named Sukarno as the country’s first president.”

So, if Mr. Obama would be provided with intelligence by his national security advisers on how to handle the peaceful-turned-bloody take over of North Borneo by the Sultan’s Royal Army, he does need a lot of introduction.

All Mr. Obama needed to be told was that North Borneo or Sabah was the former real estate property of Sultan of Brunei, who ceded Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu for extending protection of the Sultan of Brunei.

But because Brunei struck oil in 1920’s and the oil is still flowing to this day, the neighboring North Borneo has suddenly become a hotly contested property.

Finding the Sultan of Sulu vulnerable from the attack of Spanish colonizers, Austrian Consul Baron von Overbeck tricked the Sultan of Sulu into signing a lease treaty with the Sultan on Jan. 22, 1878. The treaty was written in Malay language written in Arabic script. The agreement gave Overbeck the authority to administer North Borneo estate with a very paltry lease amount – an annual payment of 5,000 Mexican pesos (now Malaysian Ringgit).

This is exactly what Lolo meant when he told the young Obama, “Men take advantage of weakness of other men. They’re just like countries that way. The strong man takes the weak man’s land.”

NO ONE-YEAR ADVANCED NOTICE, NO TREATY SIGNED BY U.S. & GB

Despite the revocation of the lease agreement in September 1878 by the Sultan of Sulu, a Protocol of March 7, 1885 was allegedly hatched among Great Britain, Germany and Spain. For unknown reason, the Protocol let Spain renounce “as far as regards the British government, all claims of sovereignty over the territory of the continent of Borneo, which belong, or which have belonged in the past to the Sultan of Sulu (Jolo) and which comprise the neighboring islands … from the coast, and which form part of the territories administered by the company styled the British North Borneo Company.”

But Mr. Obama will find out that this “Protocol of March 7, 1885” became a worthless scrap of paper when Great Britain tried to ask the United States to transfer North Borneo to Great Britain after the United States signed the Treaty of Peace of 1898 with Spain after U.S. payment of $20-M to Spain, ceding the Philippines and Sulu Archipelago, including North Borneo, to the United States.

Question, if the Protocol of March 7, 1885 was in effect why did Great Britain still ask the U.S. to transfer North Borneo to British administration when the U.S. and Great had the Exchange of Notes of July 3 and 10, 1907 and Jan. 2, 1930 Convention?

According to the Jan. 2, 1930 Convention, “Firstly, the said company (BNBC) be left undisturbed in the administration of the islands (North Borneo) in question unless or until the United States Government give notice to His Majesty’s Government of their desire that the administration of the islands should be transferred to them. The transfer of administration shall be effected within one year after such notice is given on a day and a in a manner to be mutually arranged.”

Its Art. V says, “The present Convention shall be ratified by the President of the United States of America, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate thereof, and by His Britannic Majesty, and shall come into force on the exchange of the acts of ratification, which shall take place at Washington as soon as possible.”

There was no “one year such notice … given and a manner to be mutually arranged” and there was no such ratification by the President of the USA and advice and consent of the Senate and by His Britannic Majesty” on June 26, 1946 when the British North Borneo Company entered into an agreement with the British Government, transferring its interests, powers and rights over to the British Crown to become State of North Borneo. No wonder, the International Court of Justice ruled in 2002 that there was no such transfer.

( lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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