Jun 272013

A ranking Malaysian police official met with an elder brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III months before the standoff and deadly clashes between Kiram’s followers and Malaysian forces in March.

But at the time, Kiram’s brother did not appear to be aware of the plan by the sultan’s followers to enter Sabah, former Sabah Special Branch deputy chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Zulkifli Abd Aziz told a court.

Zulkifli told the High Court Wednesday he met the sultan’s elder brother Datu Esmail Kiram for a cup of coffee and to “get to know him” last December, according to a report from Malaysia’s The Star Online.

Zulkilfli was testifying at the trial of police corporal Hassan Ali Basari, 58.

Hassan had been accused of withholding information relating to terrorist acts.

Kiram’s followers had engaged Malaysian forces in a standoff in Lahad Datu for three weeks. The standoff ended in deadly clashes March 1 and 2.

Sabah row not discussed

The Star Online report said Zulkifli, who was questioned by lawyer Ram Singh, claimed Esmail did not reveal plans by the sultan’s so-called Royal Sulu Force to occupy Tanduo.

He said Esmail merely asked for his help to look for investors who could help him develop his 1,600-hectare land in Mindanao into an oil palm plantation.

But in February 2013, Zulkifli said he contacted Esmail to get the phone number of his younger brother Agbimuddin Kiram, who led the Kiram followers to Sabah.

When asked by Ram if he and the special branch were aware of the Kiram followers’ plan to enter Sabah as early as last December, Zulkifli answered, “No.”

Jokes, cigarettes

When Zulkifli met with Agbimuddin during the standoff, he said he cracked jokes and distributed cigarettes to ease the tension.

He said they met thrice Feb. 14 to 16 for “tactical intelligence” purposes while trying to convince the group to leave.

“I cracked a few jokes to liven up the situation by promising to bring them fried chicken and pizzas. And to allow us to take pictures of them, I told them to smile for the camera because their photos might appear in newspapers the following day,” he added. — VC, GMA News

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