Ex Ag Made Fatal Mistake Over Sulu Debt Says Lawyer


 
An armed group of more than 200 men landed in Sabah in 2013 to press the Sulu claim, resulting in the deaths of 56 militants, 6 civilians and 10 members of the security forces before the militants fled. (Reuters pic)PETALING JAYA: Two Sabah lawyers said former attorney-general Tommy Thomas has greatly compromised the country with his admission of owing money to the Sulu sultanate’s heirs in a 2019 letter.
Sabah Law Society president Roger Chin said Thomas’s admission had put Malaysia in a tight spot in its efforts to defend itself against the Sulu claim.
“That was an admission (owing money)… it would certainly have been damaging (to Malaysia),” said Chin, according to The Star.
He said that in law, such an admission of owing money could nearly always be fatal.
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In the 2019 letter to the lawyers of the Sulu heirs (sighted by FMT), Thomas attached a copy of a 1939 judgement by the North Borneo High Court, and said Malaysia did not dispute the identity of the individuals and their right to be paid.
Thomas also regretted that payments to the heirs had ceased in 2013, and added that Malaysia was “now ready and willing” to pay the heirs all arrears from 2013 to 2019 amounting to RM48,300.
Chin said the offer did not seem to have been made “without prejudice”, meaning that it could be used as evidence in court without the consent of the parties concerned.
Thus the contents of Thomas’ letter were clearly “relied upon” by the Sulu claimants in their arbitration claim against Malaysia in Madrid and Paris, said Chin.
He also said that Thomas should have taken steps to defend Malaysia against the Spanish arbitration claim, instead of merely not recognising the Spanish court’s jurisdiction to arbitrate the Sulu claim.
Resorting to copying letters to the Spanish arbitrator was an admission that Malaysia was aware of the case, said Chin. “By ignoring (the arbitration) doesn’t make it disappear and by copying the letter, it acknowledges you know about it,” Chin was quoted as saying.
He also urged the Attorney-General’s Chambers to explain why the annual payments of RM5,300 to the Sulu heirs were halted since 2013 after the Lahad Datu intrusion.
SAPP president Yong Teck Lee said Thomas had essentially admitted that a 1878 Sulu deed was still valid and that Malaysia had been “legally erroneous in stopping the payments” after 2013.
Yong, who is a lawyer, said Thomas’s memoir “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, which contained his recollections on the matter, had been used as evidence by the Sulu heir’s lawyers.
He also questioned if Thomas had consulted the then de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong before responding to the Sulu heir’s letter of demand. If Thomas had not, he would have committed gross negligence, Yong said.
He added that it would be a surprise if Liew had not known about the letter of demand. - FMT


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