(Speech of Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak at the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Thursday, 27 March 2014, Malacañan Palace Grounds)
Today, we witness the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. It is a peace deal decades in the making. In signing this agreement, the two sides have looked not to the problems of the past, but to the promise of the future. After so many years of conflict and so many lives lost, it is a momentous act of courage, and it will change their nation’s history forever.
By engaging in a peace process, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have repaid the trust placed in them by the people. By negotiating in good faith, the government of the Philippines has affirmed the rights of the Bangsamoro to determine their own destiny. Both sides have sacrificed so that the people of the southern Philippines may live free—free from the violence which tore so many families apart, free from the suffering caused by decades of conflict, free from fear.
In the pages of this agreement, we see the promise of a better future—a future where classrooms ring with laughter not gun shots, where young men fight poverty not each other, where people work hand-in-hand to build a new consensus and a new identity: the Bangsamoro.
Unity cannot be decreed over night. After so many years, there are no easy shortcuts, much work remains and there will be setbacks along the way, but the commitment to peace, the commitment I see in this surrounding today must not waver. We must be steadfast and we must be resolute.
Ladies and gentlemen, both sides are leaving conflict behind, but we must steer ourselves for a new challenge. After the conflict, the difficult work of development begins. We must give new meaning to lives struck by violence. Decades of fighting have robbed a generation of healthcare, of education, of income. With peace must come not just prosperity but opportunity, only then will Bangsamoro’s future be assured.
Two years ago, I promised President Aquino that Malaysia will continue to assist with development. We are willing to help build institutions, strengthen education, improve agriculture. This promise stands for as long as it is needed. Malaysia remains a partner for peace and for development.
Our belief in cooperation across borders has been strengthened by tragedy. The loss of 239 people onboard flight MH370 has been devastating. Malaysia are grateful for the support of our friends and neighbors, including the Philippines, in the continuing search effort. At this difficult time, we draw strength from the compassionate response of our fellow nations.
Ladies and gentlemen, this agreement secures the rights of the Bangsamoro people and the sovereignty of the Philippines. It is our hope that the people of the Bangsamoro will work alongside the government of the Philippines and the MILF to ensure its success. This commitment to peace is binding. It must be honored and protected. All parties must stand by the spirit and letter of the agreement.
We should work to ensure respect for religion and live by the principle of non-violence. We should protect human rights, embrace the rule of law, and practice moderation. Only a true and negotiated settlement can lasting peace be achieved, and only good governance can secure the ambition we all share as strong and prosperous Bangsamoro.
I am confident that the government of the Philippines will continue to work with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The support of all parties will be crucial if the law is to be passed by the Philippine Congress and a plebiscite in Bangsamoro.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to pay a special tribute to President Aquino for his unwavering commitment to peace in the southern Philippines. I would like to congratulate His Excellency Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for his strong leadership in the peace process.
Our deepest appreciation goes to the lead negotiators and their negotiating teams, especially Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and Mr. Mohagher Iqbal, as well as the pivotal contribution of Tengku Dato' Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator.
I would also like to commend all parties in the International Contact Group, representatives from Japan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Kingdom, and the international non-governmental organizations, representatives from Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Conciliation Resources, Mohammedia, and the Asia Foundation, as well as the observer from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
I also wish to thank the Malaysian contingent of the International Monitoring Team, which has contributed to lasting peace in the southern Philippines.
Malaysia is honored to have played its part in this process. We wish for nothing more than peace and prosperity for our brothers and sisters in Bangsamoro and in the Philippines. This peace process has strengthened the bond of trust between our countries.
As we look ahead to a brighter future for Bangsamoro, I pledge Malaysia’s continuing support. We will remain in our role as the third party facilitator, and we will continue working through the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to conclude by paying tribute to the extraordinary efforts which have made this agreement possible. Throughout the peace process both sides gave their all so that the people of Bangsamoro may enjoy the boundless dividends of peace that they may work, and learn, and live again.
Forty years ago, darkness came to Mindanao. In a struggle that bridge a generation, 150,000 lives were lost. Today, we turn to face the light. Today belongs to the Philippines and to the people of the Bangsamoro.
Thank you. Maraming salamat po.