“… ‘nation’ is a fundamentally contested concept that defies easy definition or explanation.”
“when we locate and define a ‘nation’s origins’ we are in effect also mapping, often literally, it’s current political claims and aspirations”
(Image Via GMA News Online)
Presently, the talks and arguments I hear on Sabah from Filipinos revolve around the legitimacy of Sulu’s claim over Sabah. Different figures are maneuvering in relation to Sulu’s claim — the Malaysian government, the Philippine government and the Sulu sultanate.
But other things are also wanting of discourse here. First is how Malaysia was threatened as armed men from Sulu landed in Sabah, which the two parties consider their territory. As a nation, Malaysia has to protect if not their people, but their political claim towards Sabah. Second is the human rights violation the Malaysian government had done towards Filipino citizens (and the Philippine president’s inaction). The brutal response of the Malaysian government with sixty three people dead cannot and must not be overlooked.
There is another dimension to it that is absent in most conversations about the issue. Everyone seems to have forgotten the actual people living in Sabah and how they consider their nationality. How do they define their identity? Which nation do they consider “home”? We talk so much about the sultan of Sulu’s claim, but what about the claim of the people actually living in Sabah? Would they consider themselves Malaysians or members of the Sultan’s people? And if we take into account the definition of territoriality back in the time of the Spanish, what sort of national identities should we follow? — and I mean this not only for Sabah but for the entire Insular Southeast Asia.
Voices of the ordinary people are seldom heard in the conversations. But the people of Sabah should be at the heart of this issue. At the moment, the lives of the people in Sabah will be the most affected by the recurring changes of the decisions of the nations. They’re in the middle of the game set between Malaysia, Philippines and the sultanate of Sulu. And as the tension gets higher, they’re the ones left in a difficult situation.