The government does not recognise the claims and arbitration proceedings by the French Arbitration Court in Paris which ordered Malaysia to pay approximately RM62.59 billion (US$14.92 billion) to the so-called descendants of the last sultan of Sulu, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said this was because the appointment of the arbitrator, Gonzalo Stampa, had been revoked and was no longer legally valid.
“On June 29, 2021, at the request of the government, the Madrid Court revoked the appointment of Stampa as arbitrator and all actions and decisions made by Stampa were null and void.
“The Madrid Court on Oct 13, 2021, ruled that the Partial Award on Jurisdiction issued by Stampa, dated May 25, 2021, was null and void,” he said during ministers’ question time.
He was replying to Ahmad Hassan (Warisan-Papar), who asked the government to clarify the order by the French Arbitration Court for Malaysia to pay RM62.59 billion (US$14.92 billion) to the purported heirs of the last Sulu sultan.
Wan Junaidi said the government had taken appropriate action to challenge the decision by filing a case at the Sabah High Court. However, he said, the claimant did not attend the court proceedings.
He said the Sabah High Court on Jan 14, 2020, ruled that the 1878 agreement did not contain any arbitration provision.
“Malaysia has never waived its sovereign immunity and the arbitrator has no jurisdiction to resolve the matters raised.
“The decision of the Sabah High Court was brought to the Madrid Court to be verified and enforced to stop the arbitration proceedings in Spain.
“Following that, the Partial Award on Jurisdiction issued by the arbitrator on May 25, 2020, was set aside,” he said.
However, Wan Junaidi said the claimant had, before Oct 13, 2021, brought the Partial Award on Jurisdiction to France to circumvent the decision of the Madrid Court.
He said on Sept 29, 2021, the French Court, unaware of the decision by the Madrid Court which had cancelled the appointment and the decision of Stampa, had issued an exequatur order recognising the Partial Award on Jurisdiction, dated May 25, 2020.
Based on the exequatur order, he said, Stampa had moved the arbitration seat from Madrid to Paris to continue the arbitration proceedings.
“In protest against the arbitrator’s action on non-compliance with the Madrid Court’s decision, irregularities of process, injustice and contempt for the rule of law, the Malaysian government filed a criminal complaint against Stampa to the Spanish attorney-general on Dec 14, 2021,” he said.
He said Malaysia had also filed an appeal to revoke the exequatur order and an application to stay its implementation.
On Dec 16, 2021, the French Court of Appeal allowed the Malaysian government’s application for a stay of the exequatur order issued on Sept 29, 2021, pending appeal.
Meanwhile, Wan Junaidi said the government would challenge any enforcement action taken by the claimant to ensure that the interests of the Malaysian government are always protected.
Wan Junaidi also explained the series of events leading to the claims, namely the agreement signed between Sultan Mohamet Jamal Al Alam (the sultan of Sulu) and Baron de Overbeck & Alfred Dent on Jan 22, 1878, aimed at safeguarding their interests in Sabah.
However, he said after the invasion of the Sulu sultanate in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, Sabah on Feb 1, 2013, the Malaysian government stopped handing over compassionate money to the descendants of the Sulu sultanate.
“Following this, a legal firm representing a group of Filipinos claiming to be the heirs of the last Sulu sultan applied for a renegotiation of the compassionate money payments under the 1878 agreement and filed an application to the Superior Court of Justice in Madrid, Spain to appoint an arbitrator on Jan 31, 2018.
“The Madrid Court then appointed Stampa as an arbitrator on May 22, 2019. On July 30, 2019, a notice of arbitration was submitted to the government of Malaysia through the foreign ministry with an estimated claim exceeding US$32 billion,” he said.