Nur Misuari and the so-called Sulu Sultanate Claims on Sabah and Sarawak – Unfounded!

The Philippines Star reported that Nur Misuari has claimed that Sabah and Sarawak belongs to him and his clan (read here).

Misuari said he and his clan are the true owners of Sabah and the Malaysian state of Sarawak. He said history would bear out that Sabah and Sarawak were the original properties of his great, great grandfather.

This was picked up by the Borneo Post online (read here) and CM Taib has rubbished this in his retort (read here) saying Misuari is twisting history. And Taib is correct in this matter.

The so-called Sultan of Sulu claim to Sabah is now well known with the recent and still on-going invasion of Lahad Datu, Sabah. Again, this is frivolous and mischievous and has turned into vicious and terroristic.

Certainly, most Malaysians are not aware of the history of Sabah and Sarawak and such claims by the so-called Sultan of Sulu and Nur Misuari are giving Malaysians a lot to chew on. It may be prudent to share some historical facts here to debunk their claims as wild and without historical basis. Furthermore, for them to prove their claims will be impossible.

A Quick Borneo History

Sarawak had, at one point in time in history, been part of the Bruneian Empire. In 1485 under Sultan Bolkiah, this empire pinnacled in what was called the “Golden Age” and claimed to be a force within the Malay Archipelago. The Bruneian Empire covered the most part of Borneo all the way to Mindanao and everything in between.


In 1841, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien II had ceded Sarawak to Rajah Brooke in return for helping the Brunei Sultan to ward off the pirates and a rebellion. Sarawak became the Kingdom of Sarawak (1841) and then under British protection (1888) with Rajah Brooke as the Governor or Rajah.

On 22 July 1963, Sarawak gained independence from the British and on 16 September 1963, joined Sabah, Singapore and Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia.


In 1846, the island of Labuan on the west coast of Sabah was ceded to Britain by the Sultan of Brunei and in 1848 it became a British Crown Colony. Labuan became a base for British operations against piracy in the region.


In 1865 the American Consul General of Brunei, Charles Lee Moses, obtained a 10-year lease over North Borneo from the Sultan of Brunei Abdul Momin. Ownership was then passed to an American trading company owned by Joseph William Torrey, Thomas Bradley Harris, and some Chinese merchants.

The rights of the trading company were then sold to Gustav Baron Von Overbeck, the Austro-Hungarian Consul in Hong Kong (though he was actually a German national), and he later obtained another 10-year renewal of the lease. The lease was subsequently converted into a cession via a treaty which was signed by the Sultan of Brunei Abdul Momin.

In the treaty, the Sultan appointed Overbeck as “Maharajah of Sabah and Rajah of Gaya and Sandakan.” The treaty granted Overbeck the right over the whole region of Sabah, including parts purporting to be the dominion of the Sulu Sultanate including Sandakan and Tawau. The treaty (read here) was signed on 29 December 1877 at the Brunei Palace.

NOW THEREFORE KNOW ye that we the Sultan Abdul Mumin Ebn Marhoum Maulana Abdul Wahab have nominated and appointed and hereby do nominate and appoint the said Gustavus Baron de Overbeck Supreme Ruler of the above-named territories with the title of Maharajah of Sabah (North Borneo) and Raja of Gaya and Sandakan with power of life and death over the inhabitants with all the absolute rights of property vested in us over the soil of the Country and the right to dispose of the same as well as the rights over the productions of the country whether mineral vegetable or animal with the rights of making laws coining money creating an army and navy levying customs rates on home and foreign trade and shipping and other dues and taxes on the inhabitants as to him may seem good or expedient together with all other powers and rights usually exercised by and belonging to sovereign rulers and which we hereby delegate to him of our own free will.

On the east coast of North Borneo near Sandakan, William Cowie, on behalf of Alfred Dent’s company, negotiated and obtained a lease in perpetuity from the Sultan of Sulu (read here) over its holdings in this region in 1878. This lease was signed on 22 January 1878 in the palace of the Sultan of Sulu.

WE Sri Paduka Maulana Al Sultan Mohamet Jamal Al Alam Bin Sri Paduka Al Marhom Al Sultan Mohamet Fathlon Sultan of Sulu and the dependencies thereof on behalf of ourselves our heirs and successors and with the consent and advice of the Datoos in council assembled hereby grant and cede of our own free and sovereign will to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck of Hong Kong and Alfred Dent Esquire of London as representatives of a British Company co-jointly their heirs associates successors and assigns for ever and in perpetuity all the rights and powers belonging to us over all the territories and lands being tritutary to us on the mainland of the island of Borneo commencing from the Pandassan River on the north-west coast and extending along the whole east coast as far as the Sibuco River in the south and comprising amongst other the States of Paitan, Sugut, Bangaya, Labuk, Sandakan, Kina Batangan, Mumiang, and all the other territories and states to the southward thereof bordering on Darvel Bay and as far as the Sibuco river with all the islands within three marine leagues of the coast.

The rights were subsequently transferred to Alfred Dent, who in 1881 formed the British North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd. In 1881, the British government granted the British North Borneo Company a royal charter. William Hood Treacher was appointed the first British Governor of North Borneo.

In 1885, United Kingdom, Spain and Germany signed the Madrid Protocol of 1885. The purpose of the protocol was to recognise the sovereignty of Spain in the Sulu Archipelago and also for Spain to relinquish all claims it might have had over North Borneo.

In 1888 North Borneo became a protectorate of the British until 1963.

On 18 December 1939, the Chief Justice of Borneo CF Mackasie delivered a definitive ruling in Civil Suit No. 169/39. He made a declaration that the plaintiffs (as the beneficiaries under the will of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram, who died at Jolo on 7 June 1935) are entitled to receive the cession monies payable by the British North Borneo Chartered Company under a deed of cession made between the Sultan of Sulu and the predecessors of the British North Borneo Chartered Company on 22 January 1878, and under a confirmatory deed dated 22 April 1903. The monies is all the descendants can claim.

On 31 August 1963 North Borneo attained self-government. And based on the Cobbold Commission that concluded that the people of North Borneo had exercised self-determination, on 16 September 1963, Sabah joined Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia.

What can Nur Misuari or Sultan of Sulu prove?

It is clear from history that there is nothing Misuari can show to back his wild claims. Unless he is also a clear descendant of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram, he has no locus standi at all.

At the same time, even the so-called Sultan of Sulu has no standing as there are numerous Sultans of Sulu, all apparently related to each other, each calling the others as fake sultans. It is quite impossible to determine lineage as one Sultan died with no male heir to succeed him. This left things in limbo and consequently, the US and the relatives all jostled the seat, if it still existed then. Hence, the monies now paid by Malaysia in continuing the treaty is understood also to be in limbo as to who are legally the current beneficiaries of the Sulu Sultanate.

As we can see, the Sultan of Sulu was also under the Madrid Protocol of 1885 and the Sulu Archipelago was confirmed to be under Spanish rule. The rights were transferred to the US when Spain sold the entire region to them. This obviously excluded North Borneo which is already under the rule of the British.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer carried a brief outline of the heirs of the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram (read here). It does attempt to outline some information to help the readers understand the context and complicity of personalities.

In conclusion, events in history as well as the Brunei and Sulu treaties have clearly denied any claims on Sabah and Sarawak by anyone regardless if the can actually prove descent of the Sulu Sultanate or not and Nur Misuari is definitely not even in the running even remotely.

Sabah and Sarawak are the people’s territory now and have voted to be a part of Malaysia. Bearing arms to invade Sabah cannot turn back history now. These people gave been misled and used by parties with vested interest.

[UPDATE] An excellent 2 part article by Patricio P Diaz in Minda News worth reading. Click Part 1 and Part 2.


One Comment to “Nur Misuari and the so-called Sulu Sultanate Claims on Sabah and Sarawak – Unfounded!”

  1. I wouldn’t be bothered with what these nut-heads say! It is akin to saying that Brunei also belongs to them too, not just Sarawak. If he is not a hypocrite, then try saying that to the Sultan of Brunei!! This is what happens to people when they have nothing better to do than fight each other on a daily basis (like what the clans have been doing in Southern Philippines)! Instead of helping their country progress they are only dreaming of the past glories of their great, great grandfathers!!!

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