Peace advocates are mourning the death, Friday, September 3, of Malaysian diplomat Tenkgu Dato AB Ghafar Tengku Mohamed who facilitated the final stretch of negotiations between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that led to the forging of the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
In a Facebook post, former presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles said Tengku died at 9 a.m. due to heart failure.
His last act as facilitator was to preside, together with presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza, the launching in Kuala Lumpur last August 13 of the implementing phase of the Bangsamoro peace agreements.
The last document he signed for the Bangsamoro peace process was the joint statement issued by the parties on August 14.
Tengku helped to pick up the pieces of the Bangsamoro peace process that was shuttered by then President Joseph Estrada’s all-out war in 2000
He was instrumental in bringing back a reluctant MILF to the negotiating table in 2001, this time with the facilitation of Malaysia.
In April 2011, Tengku took over from another high-ranking Malaysian official, Datuk Othman Abdul Razak, the facilitation of the negotiations.
In a statement, Dureza describes Tengku as “a guiding star and leading light in our work for peace with the Bangsamoro.”
Dureza cited how Tengku “skillfully and adroitly marshaled to a successful conclusion” the peace negotiations with the MILF which took all of 17 years since 1997.
“We mourn his passing as we also celebrate his valuable contributions to our continuing work for peace in the land. I know that he had to finish his task first and now that it is done, he begs leave and quietly passes into the night,” Dureza added.
Deles said Tengku “played a crucial role in rebuilding the trust between the two parties and among the partners of the process.”
She added Tengku was “always conscious and respectful of each party’s bottomline, while helping the parties to find ways to bridge the divides and navigate and expand the common grounds for consensus.”
“Under his watch, the ceasefire held and grew robust mechanisms, even following the tragedy in Mamasapano,” Deles said.
In another Facebook post, former government panel secretariat head Iona Jalijali said that more than being the facilitator of the negotiations, Tengku has “through the years... became like an uncle or grandfather to me and many others involved in the talks.”
“I regret not being able to say 'thank you' or 'goodbye.' I will miss his wisdom and quiet strength, and even his incessant teasing. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Jalijali added.