Sabah: Should it be a puzzle?

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Why the fuss and wrangling over Sabah? And why should ownership of the territory even be an issue?

No one can dispute the Sultanate of Sulu’s historical ownership of the area, which was once leased to the British North Borneo Co. and subsequently ceded by the latter to Malaysia. Logically, the basic question remains: Did the British North Borneo Co. have the right, in the first place, to cede the territory to Malaysia?

Sulu’s sovereignty over the territory never having been relinquished (in recognition of which a nominal fee continues to be paid to the Sultanate), should not Sabah have been returned to its original owners by the British North Borneo Co., rather than being handed over on a silver platter to Malaysia? Again if, as pointed out by Wikipedia, the independence of North Borneo was in accordance with the expressed wish of the majority of the people, why was this independence not sought from the Sultanate which has sovereignty over the region, rather than from Malaysia, which came by it—at best—by default?

From a strictly nonlegal, nondiplomatic, nonpolitical viewpoint, this is clearly a case of usurpation of ownership, not unlike a lessee turning over a leased condominium to the condominium management rather than the owner, on expiration of the lease.  Even the New Territories of Hong Kong, which was leased to Britain for 99 years, reverted back to China—along with Hong Kong—at the expiration of the 99-year lease in 1997.

What is the great difference here?

—BLANCHE D. GALLARDO
Muntinlupa City

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