Gov't urged to rethink approach with MNLF-A A +A
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
ILIGAN CITY -- The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to “consider revisiting” the way it engages with the peace process between government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in light of the siege in Zamboanga City starting Monday.
“I do not want to imagine it, but one clear complication, nay a casualty, is that the MNLF or at least (Nur) Misuari has rendered the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) of 1996 moot and academic,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal in his opening statement for the 40th round of exploratory talks with government.
Iqbal added: “For all intents and purposes, by the very acts of declaring independence and their military adventurism in Zamboanga City, the MNLF or Misuari has unilaterally abrogated this agreement, and, therefore, cannot be invoked anymore, legally speaking.”
The peace talks, scheduled for 10 days, kicked off Tuesday at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
The OIC Secretary-General has an observer role in the negotiations, which is now in the homestretch. It was not yet known if the OIC Secretary-General sent a representative for the opening ceremonies of the recent round of talks.
The OIC, during its Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting in Djibouti late last year urged both the MNLF and MILF to find ways at convergence of their respective peace processes with government.
This call came after government and the MILF sealed the preliminary Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) which the OIC lauded. It’s secretary-General, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu even attended the signing rites in Malacanang Palace, along with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
So far, the effort at convergence has not taken off because the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) which should have been the platform to do it was never activated.
Iqbal said that to continue factoring this (1996 FPA) into the current peace talks is causing complications.
He added that “convergence of the two peace processes is simply not attainable or practical because, both in forms and developments, these are not congruent.”
“The MNLF track has been virtually consummated, while the MILF’s is still a work in progress,” Iqbal stressed.
Iqbal described the actions of MNLF forces as “creating pockets of disturbances.”
He found these “totally contrary to the official pronouncement of MNLF spokesmen that they will not use force to back up their declaration of independence.”
“I don’t think this would help the MNLF any way closer to their objective of whatever level or form of their aspiration,” noted Iqbal.
Last month, Misuari declared Bangsamoro independence in Sulu, declaring Davao City its capital.
Even as they have apparently abrogated the FPA, Iqbal said “nothing is lost by our people and by our MNLF brothers in this abrogation.”
“The best of what is in the GRP-MNLF FPA are already subsumed or entrenched even in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Many more will be captured or fleshed out once the MILF and GPH sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), hopefully very soon,” he added.
Nothing to worry
“More importantly, our brothers from the MNLF have nothing to worry about because the MILF is inclusive and, God willing, we will see to it that the fruits of our struggle will benefit everybody,” Iqbal assured.
When it started negotiations with government in 1997, the MILF said it will not seek to supplant the 1996 FPA but will seek to expand the political and economic concessions already enjoyed by the Moro people from the central government.
“For the MILF, solving the Bangsamoro Question is not about franchise. Whoever will be able to address it, we support it,” pointed out Iqbal.
Meanwhile, an expert in Muslim affairs said on Tuesday the government should have not left out the MNLF in its bid to seal a lasting peace in Mindanao.
The Aquino administration is on its way of signing a final peace deal with the MILF but MNLF founder Nur Misuari said they were not invited to the process.
Adding to MNLF's discontent, reports said, is the government's alleged plan to abandon the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the group despite unfulfilled obligations.
"Why would you enter an agreement with a group without informing or inviting those who can help in crafting a comprehensive peace process? No group should be isolated," said Julkipli Wadi, dean of the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies.
Wadi said the incursion of MNLF troops in villages in Zamboanga City could have been the strategy of MNLF founder Misuari to call the attention of the government. Misuari declared independence last month for Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Sabah in Malaysia.
In a statement, the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) said the envisioned Bangsamoro region cannot be divided into MNLF and MILF communities.
"It therefore stands to reason that the MILF and MNLF leadership must come together to work for peace and development for the Bangsamoro," the group said.
The government belied Misuari's claims that it is bent on terminating the agreement, which has been reviewed along with third-party facilitator Indonesia since 2007.
"As far as the GPH is concerned, we are not aware of any reason for them to claim that government has abandoned them. Our aim has always been to complete the Tripartite Implementation Review so that we can move forward with concrete actions towards the development of MNLF communities, which we have already started," said Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Undersecretary Jose Lorena on August 17.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 11, 2013.