The fact that individuals in the highest levels of the Malaysian and Philippine governments are suspicious of a conspiracy does much to lend credence to the possibility. Former Malaysian PM Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, an ardent critic of Israel and US imperialism, warned months prior to the standoff in Sabah that the opposition’s Western backers sought to bring Anwar Ibrahim to power through Arab Spring-style street riots and even the use of fire power, citing recent examples in Egypt and Syria where NATO states backed political opposition figures and supported al-Qaeda-linked rebels to act on their behalf in overthrowing governments they were tired of. Reports of Saudi Arabia financially supporting Philippine terrorists should also not be taken lightly, as Gulf States have moved in-step with the US and NATO as the main financiers of Salafist terrorist networks active in west Asia, north Africa and elsewhere.
Without resorting to elaborate conspiracies in the absence of hard facts, it would be entirely negligent to ignore circumstantial evidence linking Malaysian figures to this insurgency, especially considering all sources of this nature are non-Malaysian in origin. There is no doubt that the Sultan has no legitimate legal claims over Sabah since the International Court of Justice has long recognized Malaysia’s rights and sovereignty over the territory, and the highly unusual timing of the Sulu operation being so close to elections in both countries will naturally be perceived as suspect. Militancy and terrorism undermines the Sultan’s claims entirely and lends much credibility to suspicion that the Sultan has not acted alone. Even if the US isn’t involved, the fact that a figure who received blatant US support has been implicated is significant. There is much at stake in Sabah, and in the words of the Sultan, “The only thing that could end the conflict is an intervention.
Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org