How to solve the Sulu problem?

“Your last posting sounds so…”

Racist?” I tried to offer an answer to a colleague’s hesitation (see the last posted article, The Piracy Business in the Sulu Seas.)

No, I was about to say, ‘harsh’. You are proposing that we—the governments of Malaysia, Phillipines and Indonesia—band together, to attack the Sulu and Moros in their heartland? At their homes? That will annihilate them, completely.”

Precisely. The best way to put off fire from spreading, is to pour water at its root.”

But we are not like them. We are better than these no-good pirates,” my colleague insisted.

On the contrary, we were once feared pirates ourselves. We came from many generations of feared lanuns ourselves. Though, not half as brutal. 

It is only after 300 years of colonization that we changed. After independence, we have had better access to education and better living conditions. Western materialism overwhelmed us. Post-independence Malays started collecting material assets and to retain those assets, we have to ensure continued political peace and stability.

Unfortunately, the Moros weren’t properly taken care off by the Philippines government. They were left on their own, without much help from Philippines Christian government. Their government is not as sensitive to the Muslims’ needs (cleanliness, call for prayers, man-woman relationship, forbidden animals, kosher food, etc), as we are to non-Muslims.

Therefore, the Moros have to insist upon total autonomy or better still, full independence, so as to enable them to live under an Islamic way of life. They have nothing, owned nothing; and the most precious struggle to a Moro, is freedom. Freedom, so that their children and the children after them would be able to live a full Muslim’s life.

Malaysian politicians, being Muslims themselves, understand those needs. That’s why we have, to a certain extent, lend support to their cause, and even offered financial aid to them. But the Moros know no gratitute. Their own existence and survival take precedence above all others.


Actually, the Philippines is a naturally-rich country, with more than 80 million strong population. She owns over 7000 islands, most of which are rich in natural resources. If only the country can rid herself from years of civil wars (insurgency), corrupt officials and better manage her uncontrollable population growth (consequently, social ills), she would have a brighter future. In fact, she has a potential to be in the same rank as the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

But because the Philippines government have to continually spend a major portion of her income on domestic defense (to tackle the Moro’s insurgency), less fund are available to increase her people’s standard of living. It is a classic chicken-and-egg situation.

How to tackle the Sulu problem?

Awarding Sabah or any other continent, for that matter, to the Philippines would be, as a Malay idiom succinctly puts it, “like giving a monkey a diamond ring“. If the Philippines does not know how to  ‘jump start’ her economy with the existing 7000 resource-rich islands, an additional island or continent would not bring her any good.

So, how do we solve the Sulu problem? Thus far, the international community have offered both diplomacy and kindness to the Sulu. Neither seems to work.

In my opinion, there are two ways to solve the Sulu problem. One is, as I have suggested earlier, via the use of military might. A Moro may be a fierce fighter and pirate, but he can also be turned into an obedient ‘slave’, once captured or overpowered.

The other way, is to introduce ‘materialism’, via economic wealth and education. Malaysia had, in the past, helped brokered ‘development aids’ to the militants, so that they could build schools, better roads and infrastructure; instead the rebels had used the ‘development aid’ to buy more arms.

This second, more formidable method (suitable for anti-war proponents) is to develop its natural resources, and at the same time, to fully utilize the funds retrieved thereof, for the development of the Moro/Sulu people. 

Money from oil exploration off South Palawan, for instance, could be used to contruct more schools within the Sulu islands. And agriculture or pearl cultivation businesses could be commercially developed, for the betterment of the island people of Sulu.

These development monies, nevertheless, must not be given to any of the rebel leaders, but instead spend directly towards the construction of schools, roads, public infrastructure, etc. Administrative jobs need be created to enrich the islanders, directly, without interference or support from any rebel leaders.

In other words, what I am suggesting is that, total or partial autonomy would not be an ideal solution to alleviate poverty amongst the Sulu. If and when, power and wealth are given through rebel leaders, these leaders would be turned into warlords.

The people of Moro and Sulu must be shown, and personally experience, that only long term peace can lead to prosperity. They must see that joining the rebel group would only bring death, suffering and more hardship. The economic and welfare development of the these unfortunate islanders should not, therefore, involve the rebels. Least of all, its war-mongering leaders.

Am I being harsh, my friend? On the contrary, I am a student of history.

What we do in future, should reflect upon what we have learned from the past. If we fail to learn from our past, then we have not learned at all.

– DM


2 thoughts on “How to solve the Sulu problem?

  1. First of all horrible article horrible idea as a Muslim (didn’t gather if you were or not) the idea commit harm against your brothers is haram to help the kaffir is even worse.
    Malaysia as a Muslim nation needs to be a shining light and guardian of Muslims in SEA area not as they have been doing allowing gross injustices committed against their brothers. Are not the people of the “south Thailand” actually independent Malay Muslims whose land was annexed by force by Thailand? Are they also pirates? Help your brothers not your greed when we die all must be answered to Allah (SWT) what will you say “I advocated turning my brothers to slaves to the kaffir”?

    Secoundly these 200 Suluks were hired guns just like how someone could go around and collect 200 malays to go say Thailand and make a claim should Thailand then advocate “punishing” Malaysia for the acts of a few?

    Did you know a recruitment drive was launched to gather supporters for this munafiq and no Suluks supported him in fact the tausug/suluks hate the kirams regard them as traitors and elected a new sultan. remember MNLF supports Malaysia and its real chairman said Nur Misuari does not represent them also the “10000” reinforcement never came and only 38 reported so far have been arrested the number of Moros in support of this “insurgency” is about 1000 probably at best.

    Mindanao as a land was illegally annexed by USA and then handed to Philippines they had no right to do so the Bacon Bill an American bill tried to seperate the two (Philippines on one side and Mindanao on the other) it got shelved but it shows USA knew Mindanao was an independent state.

    Materialism in Islam is haram to suggest it unacceptable if you are Muslim go to your Imam and he will teach you right and wrong.
    It is better to solve this problem for Mindanao to be granted full independence and join Malaysia.
    Hardly any Moros supported this attack on Malaysia and majority of Moros are NOT represented by the Munafiq leadership they want a Islamic federation with Malaysia rather than a kaffir nation like Philippines.
    It is better for Indonesia and malaysia and your Muslim brothers all over the world including the Bangladeshi and pakistani and Afghani coming to help against the Kaffiroon Philippines this is the better option.

    1. Interesting view point.

      I will not go into ‘materialism’ and ‘Kafeer-vs-believers’ arguments, as yet. My concern as a Muslim, is violence. Islam does not condone violence. Islam does not teach us to transgress against others. We are however, allowed to fight back, should we are attacked first.

      Nonetheless, I find your comment, “…majority of Moros are NOT represented by the Munafiq leadership they want a Islamic federation with Malaysia rather than a kaffir nation like Philippines,” interesting. All the while, we thought so too. But we were proven wrong.

      Even more interestring (breath taking, if you will) is the suggestion that the muslims in Mindano, Sulu archipelago and southern Thailand should be allowed to join Malaysia. That would be interesting indeed.

      However, Malaysian Muslims are not as ‘aggressive’ as the Suluks, Moros or Pattanis. We have enjoyed more than half a century of peace and prosperity. The idea of bringing warlords and insurgency onto our backyard, would not a very lucrative proposition.


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