Editorial: Irony in Sabah-A A +A
Thursday, March 7, 2013
THE Malaysian government upped the ante once more in its effort to dislodge members of a Sulu clan from Sabah by launching an all-out assault that included the sending of more troops and the use of fighter jets and mortars. The move has made Sabah look like Mindanao.
Here lies the irony. Malaysia brokered the peace talks between the Philippine government and the main rebel group in Mindanao, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and was so successful at it that a peace pact may soon be signed by the warring sides. Now Malaysia is being called upon to show restraint in dealing with the Filipino “intruders.”
There’s reason why the Malaysian government has chosen to launch an all-out assault against the people of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu instead of talking with them.
It has described the sultan’s claim as a “non-issue” and probably wants the intruders portrayed as “non-entities.”
Also, the Malaysian government is probably using the assault to gauge the resilience, or lack of it, of the sultan’s armed force. It wants to end the crisis in the shortest possible time. The problem is it might have underestimated the will of the intruders.
More than that, it might have failed to learn some lessons from the Philippine experience.
In Mindanao, total war had time and again failed to quell the Moro rebellion. The most telling successes of the government in this regard had been through the negotiating table (the first with the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF) and now with the MILF.
The Malaysian government needs to realize that using force won’t solve the crisis. Talking with the leaders of the clan and soliciting the help of the Philippine government will.
The point is, the sultan’s forces can prolong the crisis if it shifts to guerilla warfare and uses the largely unguarded Philippine side of the seas between Sabah and Sulu as launching pad for armed incursions. That would make battling the intruders too costly for Malaysia.
In the end, talking would be a better option. And this time around, the Philippine government may have to play the role that Malaysia played when the former was talking peace with the MILF.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 07, 2013.