The Malaysian government does not recognise the claim made by the Sulu Sultan’s heirs purportedly stated in an 1878 Agreement, says the Foreign Ministry and Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).
Both said in a joint statement on Wednesday (March 2) that Malaysia did not participate in the proceedings, and added that the country consistently upholds and has never waived its sovereign immunity.
“In addition, the subject matter of the Claim is not commercial in nature and thus cannot be subject to arbitration and the 1878 Agreement contains no arbitration agreement. We further stress that the Claimants’ identities (the heirs) are doubtful and have yet to be verified,” they said.
The response from Wisma Putra and the AGC comes after a Spanish website reported that Malaysia was instructed by a French arbitration court to pay the descendants of the Sulu Sultanate an amount of US$14.92bil (RM62.6bil).
Spanish arbitrator Gonzalo Stampa issued the award in a Paris court where Malaysian officials were not represented, the news website La Información reported.
The decision was based on the alleged violation of payments of RM5,300 cession money under the 1878 agreement signed by Sultan Jamal Al Alam, Baron de Overbeck and the British North Borneo Company’s Alfred Dent.
Malaysia stopped paying the Sulu Sultan’s heirs their annual RM5,300 cession money since 2013 following the Lahad Datu armed incursion.
In Jan 14, 2020, the Sabah High Court rendered judgment against the descendants of the Sulu Sultan, where the court also declared the 1878 Agreement does not contain any arbitration agreement.
On the proceedings, both the Ministry and AGC said that the arbitration proceedings – including the decisions made by Stampa – were null and void as the claim was not properly served to Malaysia.
“On June 29, 2021, upon application by the government of Malaysia, the Spanish High Court of Justice of Madrid decided that the service of notice of the proceedings for appointment of arbitrator for purposes of the Claim was not properly served to Malaysia in accordance with peremptory international rules and Spanish law,” said the Ministry and AGC.
“The government of Malaysia completely rejects the purported Final Award dated Feb 28, 2022, which was rendered by Dr Stampa” they added.
They also said that as an attempt to circumvent the nullification decision, Stampa proceeded to obtain an ex parte order (Exequatur Order) from the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, France on May 25, 2020.
An Exequatur Order is an order to enforce foreign judgments against foreign parties by overseas courts.
Both the Ministry and AGC said that in response, Malaysia has filed an appeal against the order in the courts in Paris to suspend the effects of the order and barring the claimants from relying on it.
“In violation and defiance of this Suspension Order, the Claimants maintained that the Exequatur Order was in force and that a final award should be rendered with a seat set in Paris, France.
“Stampa upheld the Claimants’ request, in disregard of the suspension of the effects of the Exequatur Order,” they said.
Both the Ministry and AGC said that the action by the arbitrator on Feb 28, 2022, violated Malaysia’s sovereign immunity while also acting on the contempt of the courts in Madrid and Paris.
Both added that the Spanish Public Prosecutor has filed a criminal complaint against Stampa for serious contempt of court and professional intrusiveness.
“The government of Malaysia will continue to take all necessary actions including legal actions to put an end to the Claim and to ensure that Malaysia’s interests, sovereign immunity and sovereignty are protected and preserved at all times,” both said.