Malaysia. According to Countryaah, about 200 Filipinos arrived in February in the coastal city of Lahad Datu in Sabah, northeastern Borneo, and made historic claims to ownership of a land area in the Malaysian state. According to them, the area was part of the old Sultanate of Sulu, based in the southwestern Philippines. After a time of post war between Malaysian soldiers and the Philippine Armed Forces, fighting broke out, ending with at least 68 Filipinos being killed. According to Malaysian authorities, around 400 people were arrested.
Later in February, a spokesman for Jamalul Kiram, one of four men who claimed to be the Sultan of Sulu, announced that 400 new Filipino soldiers belonging to the “Sultanate of the Royal Sultanate” had camped in the jungle in Sabah. In April, media reports said that close to 1,000 militiamen had gathered in the camp, which was said to have been used by the Philippine Muslim guerrilla MNLF. Malaysian naval vessels patrolled the offshore waters and there were reports that 35 Filipinos had been shot dead by the Navy. According to the Malaysian defense minister, three members of the opposition party People’s Justice Party (PKR), led by Anwar Ibrahim, would be involved in the uprising.
Sulu’s claim to the area dates back to 1658. In 1878, the Sultan gave or leased the area to the British. In the Madrid Protocol of 1885, Spain, which then ruled the Philippines, gave the area to a British trading company. Three years later, the area became a British protectorate, and in 1946 a British crown colony. Following a 1963 referendum, the area became Malaysian. Malaysia is still paying a symbolic lease to the Philippines for the area. The President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, condemned the uprising and urged the militias to return home. Aquino, however, supported Sulu’s claim in substance.
In the election to Parliament’s second chamber, the House of Representatives, in May, the ruling party alliance won the National Front by 133 seats against 89 seats for the Opposition People’s Alliance, led by Anwar Ibrahim. The national front, which has ruled in Malaysia since independence in 1957, won by less margin than ever before and the election was the first in the country’s history where the opposition was judged to have a realistic chance of winning. In the 2008 elections, the National Front failed for the first time to achieve an absolute majority of two-thirds of the mandate, which meant that they lost the opportunity to change the constitution on their own.
In fact, the People’s Alliance received more votes than the National Front, but the electoral system gave the governing coalition the most mandate and thus the task of re-forming government. Analysts explained that the victory of the National Front was also due to the fact that it was given more space in most media and significantly larger party contributions than the opposition had access to. Although the National Front had downplayed its policy of granting economic and other privileges to the Malay people, the local party in the countryside still pursued this policy. Promising cash grants to the country’s poor were also considered to have attracted many voters. An important reason for the declining support of the National Front was that many ethnic Chinese, and to some extent also Indians, went to the opposition. City dwellers and youths also tended to vote for the People’s Alliance. The national front received 47.4% of the vote, against 50.9% for the People’s Alliance. The turnout was 84.6%.
Anwar Ibrahim refused to acknowledge the loss of elections, saying that the electoral commission looked between the fingers with widespread electoral fraud on the part of the government coalition. Protest demonstrations were held against the election results and five opposition groups were arrested, suspected of being fired.
Prime Minister Najib’s new government consisted of several so-called technocrats and only a minister from the Chinese minority. Two representatives of the Indians were included in the government, as were several representatives of the indigenous peoples’ parties in Sabah and Sarawak.
In October, a court ruled that non-Muslims must not call God Allah. According to the judgment, that term should only be used among Muslims. In 2009, a lower court had decided that Allah could be used by anyone, including Christians, as a name for God. The conflict over the name Allah arose when Muslims accused Christians of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity by calling God by the name Muslims were used to.
That same month, the House of Representatives clubbed through a bill that would allow criminals to be held in custody for several years without trial. The bill, which must also be adopted by the Senate, was criticized by human rights groups and by the opposition.
In November, Malaysia’s relations with Singapore, Australia and the United States were strained by information revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden that the three countries had been spying on Malaysia for decades.