Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said will be the government’s representative to Europe, including France, to handle the issue of the Sulu inheritance claims.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir said he may also participate in the case together with Azalina in the near future.
Zambry said it was one of Malaysia’s steps going forward, after the purported Sulu heirs were seen to be taking advantage of available expertise to pursue their claims, even to the point of ‘forum shopping’.
“For instance, they started in Spain’s courts, and when they lost they went to other countries such as France, and then to Luxembourg, and after that, to any country they felt there was a possibility and probability for them to win in this case (Sulu group’s claim).
“The latest is when they got bailiffs in France without checking the legality of the action, to the extent of attempting to survey properties at the Malaysian Embassy in France,” he said when winding up the Supply Bill 2023 debate at the policy level at the Dewan Rakyat today.
On the action of the French bailiffs, Zambry said the government had sent a protest note regarding the matter to the French Embassy in Malaysia.
“You (France) cannot do this because (the premises of the Malaysian Embassy in France) is subject to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Finally, they realised their mistake and they left,” he said.
It was reported that French bailiffs had attempted to enforce an order to inspect three Paris properties owned by the Malaysian Government there, following a bid by descendants of a former sultanate to enforce a RM66 billion (US$15 billion) award they had won against Malaysia.
Meanwhile, on the validity of the 1878 agreement, Zambry said the Sulu Special Secretariat chaired by Azalina was investigating the matter by visiting archives and related areas such as in London, the Philippines and Malaysia.
“The important question now is that those who call themselves ‘claimants’, are they really claimants or not, or are they really heirs (of Sulu)? This is what we are debating and have already prepared the legal process to challenge the legitimacy,” he said.
The claimants were previously reported to have filed legal action through the Spanish Court to seek compensation for land in Sabah which they claim was leased by their ancestors to a British trading company in 1878.
They took the matter to arbitration in Spain in 2019 and subsequently arbitrator Dr Gonzalo Stampa, appointed by the group, ruled in favour of the claimants.
The ruling was later used to seize Petronas’ assets in Luxembourg.
Malaysia has availed itself to all available legal remedies to invalidate Stampa’s two purported awards.