Saturday, December 15, 2007

Territorial Lease from Sulu.

From Labuan, Baron von Overbeck, Joseph W. Torrey, and William Clark Cowie sailed to Jolo on board the steamer, America, arriving at their destination on January 16. Consul Treacher also reached Jolo on the same day, having sailed separately on the British Warship, Fly.
Von Overbeck and his companion were shrewd negotiators and their combined effort brought to bear on the sultan, already hard-press by an ongoing campaign in Sulu, was hardly in a position to refuse. During the bargaining, Cowie, whom the sultan had great confidence as a gun-smuggling partner, contributed his own persuasive influence after having been led to believed that von Overbeck would reward him.[1]
Treacher, whom the sultan consulted, said that Overbeck represented “a bona fide British company,” and intimated to the Sultan that the Spanish Captain-General himself was at the head of the expedition already in Zamboanga poised and ready to destroy Jolo; and that the Sultan of Brunei had recently ceded to them the territory and was already to take possession of it anyway. [2] Evidently a lease of the sultan’s possession in Sabah, its pertinent provisions read thus:
“We Sri Paduka Maulana Al Sultan Mohammad Jamalul A’lam, 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 cession (as the Malaysian prefer to interpret it) or lease (as the Sulu Sultanate maintain) of Sabah to the British began in the Treaty of 1878 between Baron de Overbeck and His Highness the Sultan Jamal Al-Alam was signed for an annual payment of 5,000 Malayan dollars.
It should be noted that Consul Treacher succeeded in formalizing the participation of his government in the agreement, by affixing the participation of his government in the agreement, by affixing his signature as a sole witness to the transaction. Unlike in the Brunei grants of the previous year, Treacher’s recommendation were accepted by the Sulu Sultan, namely, that the “consent” of the British government would first be obtained before any transfer of territory and that its “consideration and judgment” shall be sought in event of any dispute.
Together with the Territorial Agreement , the sultan also appointed von Overbeck as “supreme and independent ruler” with the title of “Datu Bandahara and Rajah of Sandakan,” delegating him as a vassal power with which to administer the territory. However, the sultan made it clear that Oberbeck made the title not him.[3]
[1] K.G. Tregonning, p. 16.
[2] Sultan Jamalul Alam letter to Captain-General of the Philippines, July 4, 1878.
[3] Ibid.

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