Najib wants direct security hotline with Manila
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is seeking a security hotline with the Philippines, a year after clashes between the Malaysian authorities and Filipino Muslims claiming sovereignty over Sabah state killed at least 62 people.
Mr Najib met Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Putrajaya yesterday, where they discussed the need to exchange intelligence and conduct more military and police exercises together, the Malaysian leader said at a briefing.
“I also suggested the need for us to have a direct hotline between Malaysian and Philippine security forces,” Mr Najib said.
The Sultans of Sulu once ruled over both Sabah and the Sulu islands in southern Philippines. Supporters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III clashed with the Malaysian authorities when he sent one of his brothers and 200 armed followers to Sabah in February last year to occupy land and pursue the clan’s claim.
Mr Aquino accused Kiram, who died last October, and his followers of dragging the Philippines into a dispute that risked hurting relations with Malaysia.
“We should enhance further our security by holding joint military exercises,” Mr Aquino, who on Feb 19 said he did not plan to discuss the Sabah issue with Mr Najib, said at the briefing.
He said he invited the Malaysian Prime Minister to witness the signing of a peace agreement between his government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Malaysia is helping broker a pact aimed at ending a four-decade Muslim insurgency on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao that has killed as many as 200,000 people.
Mr Aquino also said he and Mr Najib agreed that territorial disputes with China must be settled peacefully and according to law. Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and China are among the countries making overlapping claims to areas of the South China Sea, waters rich in oil, gas and fish through which some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes run.
China agreed in July at a forum in Brunei hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to work towards rules to avoid conflict in the waters. There has not been major progress on developing a code of conduct and China introduced fishing rules in January requiring foreign vessels to seek permission before entering waters off its southern coast.
Malaysia sees potential for increased trade with the Philippines and has offered to train its neighbour on Islamic finance, Mr Najib said.