Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Malaysian peacekeepers' pull-out is GRP's fault - MILF

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) knew about Malaysia’s plan to pullout its peacekeepers from Mindanao but the secessionist group was caught by surprise it came too soon, its chief peace negotiator said Saturday.

“We were informed of the decision but we did not expect it to be implemented so swiftly,” said Mohagher Iqbal following Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement Thursday his country would withdraw its monitors beginning May 10.

“But the MILF understands the move, because it has been conveyed to both the MILF and the Philippine government peace panels as early as August 2007 and repeated several times thereafter,” he said.

Iqbal, who is also a member of the MILF central committee, blamed the Philippine government for this latest setback in the peace talks, saying Manila “continued to delay the peace process, citing legal or constitutional restraints.”

The Malaysian-brokered peace negotiations, which began after a ceasefire was signed in 2003, stalled in December over disagreements about economic control of so-called ancestral lands that the MILF claim on historical grounds. The government has initially agreed on the area to be covered, but subsequently raised constitutional issues, leading to the suspension.

Iqbal said the MILF considered the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain “a done deal to be signed by end of March.”

“That is why we even agreed to defer some items under governance to comprehensive compact,” he said.

But he accused the government of trying to “renege on consensus points including governance, which would be the basis of devolution of powers to the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).”

As early as November, Najib already warned both panels Malaysia would pullout its peacekeeping forces if there would be no substantive progress in the peace talks, Iqbal said.

Iqbal said this was the reason why the MILF accepted the compromise offered by Malaysian facilitator Datuk Othman bin Abdulrazak during the last back-channel talks in February, hoping Manila “would reciprocate.”

“Correcting prevailing wrong premise,” he said, “resources and territory are not the bone of contention resulting in the messing up of the peace talks, but rather the lack of political will of the Arroyo administration…”

Iqbal accused the government of giving “less priority to the peace process, compared to socio-economic development as part of her counter-insurgency program to mainstream the MILF and other rebels in the Philippines.”

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