All the major western powers came to the East in pursuance of the 3 Gs. These are gold, gospel and glory. More so particularly in the Sulu regional seas. It was the Spanish that brought Roman Catholicism to Philippines. While the Dutch brought Protestant faith… to some parts of Indonesia and the Portuguese brought R.C to Timor Timur and the islets of PapuaThe Portuguese and the Spaniards, in search of spice, were the earliest among the westerners to arrive in the East Indies and establish themselves in Malacca early in the 16th century. As for the British, they took the smarter approach. They formed the East India Company in the 17th. century. Initially the formation of the E.I.C was to rivalled the Dutch corporation known as the V.O.C. But the Dutch influence in the East has far waned. They were quite content to have the control of Indonesia.British interest in the Sulu-Borneo area stemmed primarily from the
East Indian Company’s desire to establish a factory. The head of this particular project was Alexander Dalrymple, who, in January 1761, negotiated a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce with the Sultan of Sulu. The agreement was confirmed by another treaty in February 1763 reiterating the major provision, emphasizing defense
alliance.But the company appeared unable to take advantage of this concession. When it finally decided, in 1769, to occupy Balambangan and made use of the ceded territory, disease and strained relations with the Sultan of Sulu erupted that led to open war. This open war had prevented the development of the enterprise. The Balambanagn settlement was abandoned in 1775 until a second attempt was made in 1803, which again abandoned in 1805.

It is imperative to note that the UK Parliament had passed a law and under the Act of 1858, the East Indian Company was dissolved and their interests were transferred to the crown.

It is equally important to note that the Spanish had long been interested in claiming the entire Islands of Philippines including the island of Jolo ( pronounced as Yolo ). This can be seen by the following subsequent events when they ruled the Philippines…

In the famous case which was filed in 1939 at the Borneo Court by the heirs to the sulu sultan who passed away, Justice Macaskie had earlier ruled by dictum that Sulu was actually ceded by the sulu sultanate to Baron Overbeck in 1878 meaning that North Borneo was CEDED or SOLD forever to Overbecks.

It is also important to note that Judge Macaskie went even further in his judgment and ruled that “…..Spain acquired sovereignty over North Borneo in 1878 when it signed the protocol of March 7, 1885 with Germany and Great Britain. In that protocol of peace, Spain gave up all claims of sovereignty over North Borneo to Great Britain; hence, sovereignty over the territory was transferred to Great Britain….. ”

Such were the strong findings of Judge Macaskie’s judgment. It is also worthy to note that in 1939 the U.S.A was the ruler of the Philippines and they did not apply to intervene as a party in the suit filed by the heirs of the Sulu sultan in claiming their annual fees of Sabah from the North Borneo company…

THE PROCTOCOL signed between Britain, Spain and Germany in 1885

From the above judgment of Justice Macaskie, the learned Judge quoted the PROCTOCOL signed between Spain, Germany and Great Britain in 1885. From therein, we can conclude a few vital points.

Firstly we can conclude that (1) Spain was the real de facto owner of North Borneo in 1878, when the sulu sultanate ceded North Borneo to Baron Overbecks. But strangely enough the Spanish government was not made a party to the agreement.

(2) Secondly we can also conclude that Spain HAD GIVEN UP ALL CLAIMS OF SOVEREIGNITY TO GREAT BRITAIN IN 1885 which is 7 years after the sulu agreement. The fact that Spain had given up it’s claim of sovereignity over North Borneo in 1885 have great legal consequences to the Sulu claim of Sabah today. It means that when Spain gave up it’s territorial claim to Britain, then the Sulu agreement of 1878 with Overbecks has been repudiated ( nullified ) effectively as the sovereignity of North Borneo in 1885 was given up by Spain to Britain.


1. The Philippines Archipelago,
2. The Island and archipelago of Jolo, conformably with existing treaties with the Sultan of Sulu;
3. The portion of Northeast coast of Borneo that forms part of the dominion of the Abu Sultan
of Sulu & North Borneo Sabah;
4. The Marianas Islands; and
5. Other territories which now belong or which may belong in the future to Spain.

These are all Spanish territories in Philippines. But in the Proctocol signed between the major powers then in 1885, it was SPAIN WHICH GAVE UP THE TERRITORIAL CALIMS ON SABAH ( North Borneo then ). Terefore it is inevitable to conclude that when SPAIN had given up it’s territorial claim, thus Sulu ceased to have any further claims on Sabah and that actually happened way back in 1885

( Part 3 has ended..   Continue reading  Part 4, please click here )

 The above article was written by Awang Kerisnada Awang Mahmud.The writer is  a session court judge and may  be contacted at
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