Malaysia backs Philippines' bid for peace in Mindanao

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 17 2013 02:46 AM | Updated as of Sep 17 2013 10:46 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur yesterday welcomed Malaysia's expression of confidence in the Philippine government’s resolve to restore peace in Zamboanga.

The embassy also welcomed Malaysia’s reaffirmation of its commitment to the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.

In a statement issued last Wednesday, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman stated that Malaysia will not meddle in the conflict between elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Philippine security forces in Zamboanga.

Anifah said Malaysia is confident that Manila would restore peace in the affected area.

“As facilitator to the peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Malaysia is committed to resolve the southern Philippine conflict in a peaceful manner that will benefit all, in particular Filipinos in Mindanao,” Anifah said.

In a symposium last June at Kuala Lumpur’s Institute of Islamic Understanding, Prime Minister Najib Razak called for a permanent solution to the problems of indigenous Muslim minorities in its neighboring countries, referring to Muslims in Mindanao, southern Thailand and Myanmar.

“These Muslims should be made to understand that they must live under current national governments… and must recognize the true responsibilities within the current nation-states and contribute the utmost to the moral and socioeconomic strengths of the nation,” Najib said.

Najib added that Muslim minorities “must eschew violence and forget this idea of having an independent Muslim state, which is not realistic. Muslims must also understand the sensitivities of non-Muslim as well.”

Widening division

Datu Dima Ambil, chairman of the Sebangen Kutawato Revolutionary State of the MNLF’s “Sema Group,” yesterday assured the police and military that his followers are ready to help quell, even by force, any attempt to create trouble by Nur Misuari’s followers in any part of Central Mindanao.

Ambil made the statement amid reports that the deadly forays of Misuari’s men in Zamboanga City and Basilan have widened the factional divide between his group and the Sema group – the largest, most politically active faction in the MNLF.

Ambil belongs to the MNLF faction led by former Cotabato City vice mayor Muslimin Sema, which has 20 “revolutionary states” scattered across Central Mindanao and Moro-dominated southern island provinces.

“We will fight them because our 1996 peace agreement with government enjoins us to help government address peace and security issues in areas covered by the agreement. It’s a big shame for us to just look at them do travesty to that agreement,” said Ambil.

Ambil said they are opposed to the hostile activities going on now in Zamboanga City and Basilan of the MNLF Misuari group, which is largely composed of ethnic Tausugs from mainland Sulu and a handful of Yakans from Basilan.

“We do not like it. We will never support any violent action they are instigating just to catch attention,” Ambil said. “We will not stop from recognizing and upholding the Sept. 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace agreement, whose initial dividends are now being felt by our members in North Cotabato.”

Meanwhile, Sema said key officials of the MNLF opposing the hostile actions of Misuari and his men will hold a “revolutionary conclave” today to draft a manifesto reaffirming their recognition of the Sept. 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace accord and renouncing him for good.

“This is a follow up to our position to just stand down and not participate in any of the ‘acts of war’ being done by Misuari’s group,” Sema said yesterday. – With John Unson, Ramil Bajo, Ben Serrano, Gerry Lee Gorit, Alexis Romero