Here, one would have to go back to the history of Sabah where the Sultan of Sulu was granted the territory as a prize for helping the Sultan o Brunei against his enemies. In 1878, Baron Von Overbeck, an Austrian partner representing The British North Borneo Co. and his partner a Briton Mr. Alfred Dent, leased the territory of Sabah. In return, the company will provide arms to the Sultan to resist the Spaniards and 5,000 Malaysian ringgits annual rental based on the Mexican dollars value at that time or its equivalent in gold. This lease have been continued until the independence and formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963 together with Singapore, Sarawak and Malaysia. As of 2004, the Malaysian Embassy to the Philippines had been paying cession/rental money amounting to US$1,500 per year (about 6,300 Malaysian Ringgits) to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu.
The lease agreement is definitely a proof otherwise there will be no basis for any agreement if such ownership was not established at all. The contract was between Sri Paduka Maulana Al Sultan Mohammad Jamalul Alam - representing the sultanate as owner and sovereign of Sabah on one hand, and that of Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, representing the British Easy India Co., on the other as lessee of Sabah, was executed on January 22, 1878. The Lease prohibits the transfer of Sabah to any nation, company or individual without the consent of His Majesty’s Government (“Government of the Sultan of Sulu”). Although it is mentioned to be a permanent lease, it is contrary to the international law, which states that the terms for a lease contract could only be for 99 years like Hong Kong and Macau. This would make the lease on Sabah overdue by 130 years.
In 1906 and 1920, the United States formally reminded the Great Britain that Sabah did not belong to them and was still part of the Sultanate of Sulu but the British Government ignored and did not listen to the reminder and still annexed the territory of North Borneo as a Crown Colony on July 10, 1946. This is in spite of the fact that the British Government was aware of tile decision made by the High Court of North Borneo on December 19, 1939 that the successor in sovereignty of the Sultan in the territory of Sabah are the Government of the Philippine Islands and not Great Britain.
On September 12, 1962 during the President Macapagal's administration , the territory of North Borneo, and the full sovereignty, title and dominion over the territory were ceded by then reigning sultan of Sulu, HM Sultan Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I, to the Philippines. The cession effectively gave the Philippine government the full authority to pursue their claim in international courts. The Philippines broke diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the federation have included Sabah on 1963.
In the years immediately prior to the formation of Malaysia, two commissions of enquiry visited North Borneo (along with neighbouring Sarawak) in order to establish the state of public opinion there regarding merger with Malaya (and Singapore). It is important to note that neither commission was mandated with addressing the legal status of North Borneo; neither were they 'referendums' in the proper sense. The first commission, usually known as the Cobbold Commission was established by the Malayan and British governments and was headed by Lord Cobbold, along with two representatives of Malaya and Britain (but not either of the territories under investigation). The Commission found that 'About one third of the population of each territory [i.e. of North Borneo and of Sarawak] strongly favours early realisation of Malaysia without too much concern over terms and conditions. Another third, many of them favourable to the Malaysia project, ask, with varying degrees of emphasis, for conditions and safeguards... The remaining third is divided between those who insist upon independence before Malaysia is considered and those who would strongly prefer to see British rule continue for some years to come'. Indonesia and the Philippines rejected the findings of the Cobbold. In 1963, a tripartite meeting was held in Manila between Indonesian president Soekarno, Philippines president and Malayan Prime Minister Tunku. The meeting agreed to petition the UN to send another commission of enquiry and the Philippines and Indonesia agreed to drop their objection to the formation of Malaysia if the new commission found popular opinion in the territories in favour. The UN Mission to Borneo was thus established, comprising members of the UN Secretariat from Argentina, Brazil, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Ghana, Pakistan, Japan and Jordan. The Mission's report, authored by the then UN Secretary General U-Thant found ‘a sizeable majority of the people' in favour of joining Malaysia. Although Indonesia and the Philippines subsequently rejected the report's findings – and Indonesia continued its semi-military policy of konfrontasi towards Malaysia – the report in effect sealed the creation of Malaysia. (source : Wikipedia)
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – Moro leader Nur Misuari says he has no plans to attack Sabah but wants the International Court of Justice to settle the status of Sabah if Malaysia will not resolve the issue with the Bangsamoro “justly and peacefully.” In his 68-minute “State of the Bangsamoro Republik address” Misuari told thousands of supporters at the parade grounds of the Rizal Memorial Colleges (RMC) that he was informed word had gone around in Malaysia that with his release, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) would invade Sabah.
“Did I ask you to make war or peace?” Misuari asked. The crowd said no.
“Your shouts give lie to all these accusations,” he said.
MNLF organizers placed the crowd at 30,000 although the city government on Friday had placed the number of unarmed MNLF members who arrived here from various parts of Mindanao, at 5,000.
Misuari, however, challenged the Malaysia to show proof that Sabah is theirs.
He said the Sabah issue should be brought to the International Court of Justice for resolution.
“We have plenty of brave lawyers who are ready to face them because Sabah belongs to us,” Misuari said.
One of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, had also spoken earlier onstage.
Misuari cited what he called “the pittance,” in reference to the lease Sabah pays the Sultan’s heirs, at 5,000 ringgit or about 27,000 Philippine pesos.
“What are we going to do? Anong gagawin natin kung ayaw nila magbayad more than 5,000 ringgits” he asked.
“Five thousand ringgits. That’s a pittance,” he repeated. Misuari was arrested in an island off Sabah on November 24, 2001 for alleged illegal entry. Hew was turned over to the Philippine government on January 7, 2002, and was detained on charges of rebellion until he was allowed to post bail on April 25 this year, after payment of P50,000 bond.