Monday, 4 March 2013


Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram




V. The North Borneo problem

In 1675, the throne of the neighbouring realm of Brunei was disputed and the Sultan of Sulu was asked to settle the conflict as an arbiter; when the negotiations were proved useless, the Sultan used his army in favour of one of the claimants, helped to stop the civil war and was generously rewarded with the northern part of the Kalimantan (Borneo). It was in 1878 that the then Sultan, Jamal ul-A’Lam, looking for a political balance in the region, granted this part of the Sultanate on lease to Europeans. With time, North Borneo became a British crown colony and then was incorporated into Malaysia as the province of Sabah. The Sultan remained the de jure supreme sovereign of North Borneo and continued to receive the annual fee as established by the initial agreement. It worth mentioning that the Sultan’s rights were confirmed by judicial and governmental acts in Sabah and Malaysia, and that neither Bates Agreement nor Carpenter Agreement affected these royal rights in any way, because the US explicitly declined from interfering into this delicate matter. Numerous influential Filipino politicians, to the opposite, considered North Borneo a part of the Sultanate of Sulu and thus a dominion of the Philippines. Thus the claim to Sabah appeared depending on the Sultanate’s existence. To obtain the formal recognition of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu by Manila (which implied a chance to reestablish the Tausug autonomy), Sultan Esmail twice (in 1962 and in 1969) signed acts of cession of North Borneo to the Republic, but as the latter failed to implement the practical provisions of these acts, such as to claim the province effectively, both these acts appeared void. The North Borneo case remains a complicated legal as well as political problem. Malaysia continues to pay the rent to this day. 

V. The current state of the Kingdom

In 1974, Sultan Esmail died and was duly succeeded by his son and heir Mohammad Mahakuttah Kiram6. The accession of the new Sultan was solemnly recognised by the Filipino President, under whose act Manila acknowledged not only the personal status of the Sultan-King but also the formation of the government of Sulu. Presidential representatives attended the coronation of HM Sultan Mahakutta on 24th May 1974. On this occasion, Mahacutta’s son and heir HRH Datu Muedzul-Lail was installed (and formally recognized by the Filipino state) as the Raja Muda (Prince Royal and heir apparent). 
Sultan Mahakutta passed away in 1986 when the political situation in the Philippines was profoundly different; the power passed from the dictator Ferdinand Marcos to an experiment-minded leader, Coraz√≥n Aquino, the perspectives were uncertain, and the political instability in the Moroland was growing dramatically. Manila declined from supporting the new head of the house. Young Raja Muda Muedzul-Lail was advised neither to arrange a coronation without recognition from Manila, nor to throw the Crown into the struggle between the secessionists and the adherents of the Republic. Therefore Muedzul-Lail preferred to remain, temporarily, a Raja Muda and HRH instead of assuming the title and style of the Sultan-King, although it was understood that this decision, according to the Sulu customs, deprived him neither from the headship of the Sultanate nor from the ruler’s prerogatives.
Due to the turbulent political circumstances, the traditional structure of the Sultanate was largely destabilised and numerous pretenders started claiming the throne, to fill the imaginary gap in the leadership. Several coronations were masqueraded. Even Muedzul-Lail”s uncle Datu Fouad, on being appointed by his nephew a viceroy for North Borneo, failed to stand a temptation and used this opportunity to proclaim himself a Sultan both in Sulu and, separately, in Sabah. All these frenetic attempts were, and are, in a striking contrast with Raja Muda Muedzul-Lail’s quietly consistent realistic attitude and his policy of gradual restoration. Currently the Raja Muda operates as a full-scale ruler, assisted by the traditional assembly of the nobility and the notables, the Ruma Bichara.
The heir to the Sultanate is the Raja Muda’s elder son Mohammad Ehsn S. Kiram, who currently enjoys the title of Maharaja Adinda (“the second heir” or “the heir to the heir”). The Raja Muda’s five sons guarantee the firm Kiram succession.
To unite the compatriots, that is, the traditional aristocracy and the commoners alike, the Tausugs as well as the non-Tausug settlers; to gain the recognition of the Philippine Republic for the traditional social practices of the Tausug nation, for which the current Filipino law offers an opportunity; to revive the constructive relations with other Malay and non-Malay sovereign houses: these and other similar tasks, being integral parts of the Raja Muda’s agenda, cannot be accomplished without caution and patience, but also without bold initiatives. The current royal honours policy of the Raja Muda, as an example of such an initiative, will be discussed in a separate paper. 



1 comment:

  1. Sultan Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram is the rightful legitimate Sultan, eldest son and crown prince of his late father Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah Kiram (1974-1986) the last recognised Sultan of Sulu by the Philippine Government

    Please see the Philippine Government Gazette:
    Please see the line of succession on the Philippine Government Gazette: