From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 29): Malaysian premier Razak vows to continue backing Mindanao peace process
Although disappointed at the shelving of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Philippine Congress, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has expressed continued support for the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) way beyond the term of President Aquino who will step down from power on June 30.
Razak made this commitment in a statement published Friday in Malay Mail after his meeting with MILF chief Murad Ebrahim a day earlier in an undisclosed location in Malaysia.
“Malaysia is ready and willing to work with the next President of the Philippines, regardless who will win the election… It is my personal wish to see lasting peace prevails,” Razak stressed.
Malaysia plays a key role in the Bangsamoro peace process, principally as facilitator of the political negotiations with the MILF since 2001.
“I envision the Philippines-MILF peace process as a model for resolving long-standing conflicts. This process has not only brought relative peace to the southern Philippines but also to the region,” Razak noted.
“Should the process finally be completed, it would also insulate Southeast Asia from threats by militant groups. I am confident that the conflicting parties will remain committed to find lasting peace, and Malaysia will continue to be an honest broker in this process,” he pointed.
Apart from facilitating the negotiations, a senior Malaysian military officer also heads the multi-country International Monitoring Team (IMT) created by the parties in 2004 to monitor implementation of a ceasefire accord.
“As a testament of Malaysia’s commitment, Defense Minister, YB Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein will be accompanying our new batch of observers in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) during the hand-over process in Cotabato City next month,” Razak said.
During the meeting of the government and MILF peace panels last Feb. 10 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur, they renewed the mandate of the IMT up to March 2017. The tour of duty of the current IMT contingents ends next month, necessitating the deployment of a new batch of monitors.
The oldest of the peace mechanisms, the IMT is composed of contingents coming from Brunei, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Norway.
Razak said his meeting with Murad was aimed at discussing the peace process in southern Philippines, which Malaysia has been facilitating.”
“Overall, we shared common sentiment over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Philippines Congress,” Razak disclosed.
Murad, in a Feb. 18 statement, expressed the MILF’s “deep disappointment and grave dismay” over the fate of the proposed measure in the 16th Congress, although he urged the Moro people to “let reason prevail over emotion.”
“During the discussion, I convinced H.E. Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim that despite the current setback, the MILF must remain faithful to the peace process since it is a practical choice to resolve the Bangsamoro issue,” Razak disclosed.
“Reverting to armed struggle is definitely not an option and bloodshed must be avoided at all costs,” he said.
The Malaysian prime minister witnessed, and delivered a speech during the signing ceremony of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012, and again in March 2014 during the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
In both occasions, Razak praised the leadership of both Murad and Aquino for achieving the historic feat of mustering a blueprint for eventual peace in Mindanao.
Razak related that during their Feb. 25 meeting, Murad “pledged his utmost commitment to sustain peace and its dividends.”
Razak, who used to be Malaysia’s defense minister, advised the MILF to “remain united, particularly at this trying time in order to face uncertainties and challenges.”
He also told Murad, who was the MILF’s military chief prior to taking over its helm, “to actively reach out to other Moro groups in order to foster Bangsamoro unity and ensure the inclusivity of the current peace process.”
“I call upon all groups in Mindanao to reject radicalization and extremism. As Muslims, we must uphold and implement wasatiyah (moderation), which brings forth a moderate, just and balanced way of life,” Razak appealed to Filipino Muslims.