THE TIME BEFORE OVERBECK AND ALFRED DENT IN SABAH
Even before Baron Overbeck had acquired Sabah in 1878, there was another European entity which had set foot in Sabah. In 1761, an officer of the British East India Company at Madras in India, AlexanderDalrymple, concluded an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu & Sabah – Philippine Islands that permitted him to set up a trading post in the North Borneo Sabah region. He chose Pulau Balambangan (Balambangan Island), an island off the northern tip of the mainland, and renamed it ‘Felicia’. But the island was abandoned in November 1805 after several attempts to turn it into a port had failed.
Earlier we know as in Part 1 of this article that a Hungarian consul Baron von Overbeck acquired from the Sultan of Sulu & Sabah North Borneo in 1878. the lease was purchased by von Overbeck’s British partner Alfred Dent,
THERE WAS BRITISH INTERVENTION EVEN BEFORE SABAH BECAME A BRITISH PROTECTORATE
Sabah became a British protectorate in 1888 but even before that date there was already a British Resident in Sabah….. His name was William B. Pryer He named his new settlement which was previously called Sandakan to Elopura, which means Beautiful City. A few years later, the name was re-named back to Sandakan.
In 1883, the capital of the British North Borneo Company was moved from Kudat Town to Sandakan City with the existence of a British Resident. Therefore we must conclude that for all intents and purpose, Britain had exercised some SORT OF CONTROL over Sabah and more so glaringly in 1888.
The fact that there was a British Resident must necessarily mean that Baron Overbeck and Alfred Dent had intended that there must be some sort of British intervention in Sabah. It must be noted that the Sulu sultanate and Spain were at all times aware of the existence of this British Resident and yet they did not object to it. And more so, when in 1888 Sabah officially became a British protectorate but no protest were lodged by Sulu or Spain.
When North Borneo became a British Crown Colony in 1946, the capital was shifted to Jesselton, now known as Kota Kinabalu
SABAH WAS NOT A LEASE BUT INSTEAD IT WAS CEDED BY SULU TO OVERBECK AND ALFRED DENT
As of today it has been the Sulu’ position all along that Sabah was leased by the Sulu Sultan to Overbeck and Alfred Dent’s company. But if one is to look at the wordings of the agreement carefully, then one can only conclude that it was actually never leased but ceded. Even though the word lease was present but in substance that was actually a cession because the time period was FOREVER. Here I appended the copy of the agreement :
“……….We Sri Paduka Maulana Al Sultan Mohammad Jamalul Alam, son of Sari Paduka Marhum Al Sultan Mohammad Pulalum, Sultan of Sulu and of all dependencies thereof, on behalf of ourselves and for our heirs and successors, and with the expressed desire of all Datus in common agreement, do hereby desire to lease
of our own free will and satisfaction, to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck of Hong Kong, and to Alfred Dent, Esquire, of London, who act as representatives of a British company, together with their heirs, associate, successors, and assigns FOREVER AND UNTIL THE END OF TIME, all rights and powers which we possess over all the territories and lands tributary from the Pandasan River on the east, and thence along the whole east coast as far as Sibuku on the South, and including all territories, on the Pandasan River and in the coastal area, known as Paitan, Sugut, Banggai, Labuk, Sandakan, China-Batangan, Murniang and all other territories and coastal lands to the south, bordering on Darvel Bay and as far as the Sibuku River, together with all the lands which lie within nine miles from the coast……. ”
The Sultan of Sulu even appointed, made and conferred a title to Baron Overbeck and that title is styled and known as “…..A Supreme and independent ruler known as Datu Bandahara and Rajah of Sandakan, delegating him as a vassal power with which to administer the territory of Sabah……”
To this end, the present modern day of Sulu claim to Sabah and their contention that Baron Overbeck was a mere businessman cannot stand and cannot be accepted at all as the Baron was given a title with administrative powers. Thus being such, it could not be legally wrong for Overbeck to make Sabah a British protectorate in 1888. Therefore when Baron Overbeck and Alfred Dent formed the North Borneo company after acquiring Sabah, we can simply and safely conclude that Overbeck was NOT JUST A CEO OF A COMPANY BUT A RIGHTFUL AND LEGITIMATE ADMINISTRATOR AND THEN DE FACTO RULER OF SABAH….
The Philippine government when it achieved independence in June 1946, believes that Alfread Dent, who was granted a Royal Charter in the form of British North Borneo Company by the British government, to which the British Crown derived its claim of sovereignty, was not authorized to acquire sovereignty or dominion.
SULU SULTAN FILED A SUIT IN THE BORNEO COURT IN 1939 AND LOST – The dictum of Justice Macaskie
“…….It is important to mention that In 1939, the heirs of Sultan Jamalul Kiram filed a suit case in the court of Borneo for the purpose of collecting the money due to them under the 1878 Grant. The issue before the court was the identity of the heirs of the sultan who were entitled to receive payments after his death….. ”
The Judge Honourable Justice Macaskie made a very important dictum… In that case the Judge interpreted the 1878 agreement between the then Sulu Sultan and Overbeck as a CESSION AND NOT A LEASE.
Under this circumstance, the Philippine Government could not accept the dictum of Judge Macaskie because in the judgment, the Treaty of 1878 was viewed as a permanent CESSION OR SALE. In other words, Honourable Justice Macaskie viewed that in 1878 the Sulu Sultan had CEDED and SOLD Sabah to Overbeck and the consideration was the yearly payment of USD5,000/-.
( PART 2 has ended. Continue reading PART 3 – Please click here )