Gov’t sought Indon, OIC help early in Zambo siege-A A +A
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
ILIGAN CITY -- A top government official said that early in the crisis brought by the siege of Zamboanga City by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, the government has already asked for international intervention “in finding (a) peaceful resolution to the ... incident.”
Presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Quintos-Deles said the government first asked Indonesia on Sept. 10 “to open their communication lines” for possible messages from the MNLF faction of Nur Misuari who were involved in the siege of Zamboanga.
The Indonesian government “agreed and accordingly gave instructions to their embassy here (in Manila),” Deles said in a recent statement.
“(Indonesian) Embassy officials explained to us that this meant that their lines would be open to receive and transmit messages from one side to the other (but) they did not see it to be within their role to proactively make a call to either side,” Deles added.
Indonesia chairs the Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a pan-Islamic body composed of 57 Muslim states.
The PCSP facilitates the Tripartite Review of the Implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) that Misuari, on behalf of the MNLF, inked with government under former President Fidel Ramos.
Deles related that upon government’s inquiry with the Indonesian embassy, they found that Misuari’s group “never asked or offered to talk about resolving the incident in Zamboanga.”
“We understand from Indonesia that in the several times they received a message from the Misuari group last week, the only topic they (MNLF) raised was regarding travel arrangements to attend the (tripartite review) meeting in Yogyakarta,” Deles said.
By Sept. 12, Misuari’s group communicated to the Indonesian embassy its request that the Yogyakarta meeting, which was set for Sept. 16, be postponed, Deles added.
Two days after asking for Indonesian help, government made a similar request “to the entire OIC Peace Committee if they could help in any way in resolving the incident.”
“None of the eight countries present offered a proposal,” said Deles.
The PCSP used to be named the OIC Ministerial Committee of Eight and was composed of Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Somalia. It has since been expanded to include Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, according to the International Islamic News Agency, a special organ of the OIC.
By Friday, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has publicly declared the body’s willingness to help resolve the standoff in Zamboanga amid a mounting humanitarian crisis as residents of at least five villages fled from their homes to escape the crossfire and to avoid being taken as hostages.
More than 60,000 people have sought shelter in evacuation centers in Zamboanga City. Add to this those who stayed in the houses of relatives, what the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center described as ‘home-based evacuees.’
At press time, Deles is still keen on having the OIC on board the process of immediately resolving the Zamboanga standoff.
She narrated that in a phone conversation with former president Fidel Ramos Monday night, she “sought his advice on how we can better tap the OIC’s assistance in resolving this matter.”
Deles said that Ramos “expressed his concern that the situation in Zamboanga City be resolved as soon as possible.”
“He also said that he thought that everyone in government was doing okay. He reiterated the need for early resolution of the crisis and that in doing this, it was imperative to have a single authoritative command,” Deles related Ramos’ words.
“He (Ramos) told me to make sure that we complete the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (including its annexes)... and not be distracted or deterred by the crisis situation in Zamboanga,” Deles added.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 18, 2013.