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No compromise, Ismail says on defending country's assets after Sulu claims

The prime minister says the government will use every available channel to protect Malaysia's assets.

2 minute read
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Photo: Bernama
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Photo: Bernama

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob today said the government would use every available channel to protect the country’s assets following claims made by the Sulu group.

"They brought the case to court, so we will also protect our assets through legal channels.

"I give my assurance that I will not compromise or budge even an inch in defending the country’s rights and sovereignty," he told reporters after opening the 2022 National Security Conference in conjunction with National Security Month celebration in Putrajaya.

He was responding to reports that the Sulu group had threatened Malaysia's interests and assets overseas, especially assets belonging to government-linked companies.

On July 12, the assets of two Petronas subsidiaries in Azerbaijan were reportedly seized by the Sulu group, who are claiming US$14.92 billion (RM62.59 billion) from Malaysia.

The move was said to be part of legal efforts launched in 2017 by the heirs to receive compensation over land in Sabah which they claim their ancestor had leased to a British trading company in 1878.

Ismail said he was made to understand that Petronas and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar would give an explanation to Parliament soon on the seizure of Petronas assets in Azerbaijan.

He said the Cabinet had on July 14 agreed to set up a special task force to study, monitor and formulate an appropriate action plan based on the provisions of the law to address the Sulu group's claims on Malaysia.

"A special task force has been set up to look into the issue in a comprehensive manner, not only concerning Petronas assets but also Malaysia’s other assets abroad. 

"There are many government-linked companies which have assets overseas and this will be looked into thoroughly," he said.

When asked about any need to mobilise security forces to defend the country’s assets overseas, Ismail said: "It’s not easy to bring security forces to other countries, unless under the United Nations flag."

In March, a French arbitration court ruled that Malaysia, which inherited the lease obligations after gaining independence from Britain, must pay at least US$14.92 billion to the descendants of the last Sulu sultan.

However, Wan Junaidi said the government did not recognise the claims and proceedings by the arbitration court in Paris as the decision made by the arbitrator, Dr Gonzalo Stampa, was null and void after his appointment was revoked in 2021.

On Tuesday, the Paris Court of Appeal allowed the government’s application to stay the enforcement of the final award issued by the arbitration court on the grounds that it would affect the immunity of Malaysia’s sovereignty.

In a statement on Wednesday, Wan Junaidi said as a result of the suspension order given by the Paris Court of Appeal, the final award could not be enforced in any country until a final decision is made by the Paris court regarding the government’s application for its cancellation.