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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Self-styled Sulu Sultan dies of multiple organ failure


MANILA, Oct 20, 2013 (AFP) - A self-proclaimed Philippine sultan whose followers launched a bloody incursion into the Malaysian state of Sabah earlier this year died of organ failure in a Manila hospital on Sunday, his wife said.

Jamalul Kiram III, 75 - who described himself as the "Sultan of Sulu" after a group of islands in the southern Philippines - passed away at a government hospital but remained defiant to the end, his wife, Fatima Kiram said.

"The sultan died a poor but honourable man," she told AFP, adding that his fight to reclaim Sabah as part of the sultanate's territory would continue.

"His last words to all his brothers and followers were, 'It has already begun. Let us continue it for the good of our people. Do not abandon our people,'" she quoted him as saying.

She said, however, this did not mean renewed violence, adding that the family was willing to enter into negotiations with Malaysia.
Her husband had been undergoing twice-weekly dialysis sessions for kidney disease before his death.

In February, at least 100 armed followers of Kiram, who claimed to be the hereditary chief of the "Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo," entered Sabah to press his claim on the Malaysian state.

After the group refused to lay down their arms Malaysian security forces moved against them, resulting in deadly clashes that left dozens dead and sent the invaders fleeing.

The Sultan of Sulu once ruled over islands that are now parts of the southern Philippines, as well as Sabah.

However the sultanate lost control of Sabah to European colonial powers in the 18th Century. The former British colony became part of the federation of Malaysia when it was formed in 1963.

Kiram and his family, as heirs to the sultanate, still receive annual compensation from Malaysia - the equivalent of about $1,700 - but he had previously said this amount was far too low.

Aside from Kiram, there are other descendants of the sultanate who also claim to be the true sultans of Sulu.

Fatima Kiram said her husband's younger brother, Bantillan, would take over as sultan, stressing he had "the legal authority".

Sydney Opera House celebrates 40 years


SYDNEY (AFP) - The Sydney Opera House, world heritage-listed as "one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity", celebrated its 40th birthday Sunday with a flotilla of lifesavers, Aboriginal dancers and a gigantic cupcake.

Huge crowds packed the steps for a distinctively Australian performance on the glittering harbourfront, where three generations of Danish architect Jorn Utzon's family were the guests of honour.

It was a postcard-perfect day beneath the same cloudless blue skies that inspired Utzon's winning design to build Sydney an opera house back in 1956 - the white sails drawn from his childhood in the Aalborg shipyards.

"A building like this happens once in a lifetime," Utzon's son Jan told revellers on Sunday.

"It is a unique Australian expression of will and enthusiasm and 'let's go do it' kind of spirit."

A crew of surf lifesavers wearing their famous yellow-and-red caps and costumes arrived at the Opera House's Man O' War steps on one of Sydney's distinctive ferries, flanked by six of the association's dinghies and two tugboats.

They were met and led up the red-carpeted steps by Aboriginal dancers where a traditional smoking ceremony was held to spiritually cleanse the site accompanied by an indigenous dance ritual and didgeridoo.

A giant cupcake topped with a model of the Opera House made from icing was carried onto the stage by the lifesavers, and Australian rocker Jimmy Barnes - frontman of Cold Chisel - led a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday accompanied by a navy brass band and school choir.

An Etihad A340 made a low pass over the site to cap celebrations.

The distinctive performance hall is one of Australia's best-known landmarks and centrepiece of Sydney's cultural scene, hosting some 2,000 shows every year and attracting 8.2 million visitors.

"As the most internationally recognisable symbol of both Sydney and Australia, it has become our calling card to the world," said Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, whose husband Nicholas Shehadie was the mayor of Sydney when Queen Elizabeth II opened the Opera House on October 20 1973.

"We will never forget the universal joy and pride, heralding a glorious new chapter in the performing arts," she said of that occasion.

Utzon won an international design contest to build the harbour city an opera house in 1956 that attracted 233 entries from 28 countries, despite being relatively unknown in the architecture world.

His ambitious blueprint, drafted from photos and maps without ever having visited the harbour site, took 14 years and Aus$102 million to complete, funded by a state lottery.

It was one of the most difficult engineering feats ever attempted at the time, with Utzon envisaging a chamber with vaulted roofs unsupported by pillars or columns.

The Opera House was listed a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2007.-AFP

Japan PM Abe's brother 'goes to Yasukuni shrine'


Tokyo (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's younger brother, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Nobuo Kishi visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine Saturday, a report said.

Kishi told reporters that his action should not affect Japan's relations with other countries and that he had not conferred with the prime minister about the visit, Kyodo News said.

His visit at the shrine's annual autumn festival came only a day after scores of Japanese parliamentarians, including a cabinet minister, paid tribute there Friday, drawing a rebuke from Beijing which said the visit was a bid to "whitewash" history.

Yasukuni is the believed repository of the souls of about 2.5 million war dead.

The shrine is controversial because of the inclusion of 14 convicted top war criminals from the World War II era.

China and South Korea, whose peoples suffered under Japan's militarist rule, say Yasukuni is a symbol of Tokyo's present-day unwillingness to come to terms with its past misdeeds.

However, Japanese conservatives say it is natural that they pay homage to people who lost their lives in the service of their country, and insist the shrine is no different from Arlington National Cemetery, where the United States honours its war dead.

Abe, a committed conservative who has not visited the shrine since he came to power late last year, on Thursday donated a symbolic gift to the shrine, in what was taken as a sign that he would not be there in person.

Abe has so far remained strategically vague about his plan to visit the shrine.

Kishi, 54, is Abe's blood-related brother. But he was adopted by a relative who had the different surname.


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