Sabah is a territory that lies on the northwest section of the huge island of Borneo. It has an area of about 29, 388 square miles. It includes the islands of Banggi and Balembangan, also in the northwest of Borneo. Prior to the year 1704, according to available historical accounts, Sabah belonged to the Sultan of Brunei. According to some historical accounts, a war over the right of succession to the sultanate of Brunei occurred on or about 1704 among brothers or cousins. A leader of one of the warring groups went to the Sultan of Sulu for assistance. The Sultan of Sulu dispatched a force to help him. The Suluanos proved once again their prowess. They won and firmly established their man in the sultanate. This Sultan of Brunei ceded Sabah as a reward to the Sultan of Sulu, who exercised sovereign rule over it.
As a consequence, the Sultan of Sulu exercised influence, if not dominion, over the territory extending from the Sulu archipelago southwestward to Sabah and northward and eastward to Mindanao, the Visayas, and Luzon. This was the condition of the country when the western colonizers, principally Spain, arrived in this part of the world. It should be noted that Spain, Great Britain, and other European countries through a series of treaties recognized the title of the Sultan of Sulu over Sabah. In January 1878, Baron von Overbeck, Austrian Consul General in Hongkong, traveled to Sulu to negotiate with the Sultan of Sulu for the lease of Sabah. William Treacher, the acting British Consul General in Labuan Island -- a part of Borneo -- accompanied Overbeck. Evidently, Overbeck entered into this negotiation for the lease of Sabah on behalf of Alfred Dent, an English merchant, who advanced 10, 000 English pound for the venture. Historical records revealed that at the time of the negotiation a Spanish expeditionary force under Captain General Malcampo was dispatched against Jamalul Alam, the Sultan of Sulu. Overbeck employed this circumstance to pressure... [continues]
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