GPH-MILF talks resumption in KL: on or off?

By | March 25, 2013

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 March) —  The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels are supposed to meet today, March 25, until March 27 in Kuala Lumpur to work on the remaining three annexes that would complete their comprehensive peace agreement but both have kept mum if the talks would proceed as scheduled amid criticisms that Malaysia has lost its effectivity as third party facilitator given the crisis in Sabah.

GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal had earlier said the talks would resume as scheduled but in the past three days, both had declined to reply to queries on the status of the talks.

Luwaran.com, the MILF’s official website, in its headline story posted on Monday said there would be a “meeting” in Kuala Lumpur but “this meeting is only for one day, not three days as originally set.”

It said the GPH will be represented by Ferrer and peace panel members Senen Bacani and Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao.

Ferrer told MindaNews late Sunday night to await announcement by Monday noon.


As of Sunday evening, the government peace panel and the technical working groups (TWG) of both panels were still in the Philippines although Ferrer and a few members of the panel were scheduled to fly to Kuala Lumpur Monday morning.

Usually, the GPH panel members and the secretariat arrive in Kuala Lumpur a day ahead of the scheduled talks while the MILF delegation usually arrives at least two days earlier.

According to luwaran.com, the MILF peace panel members now in Kuala Lumpur are Iqbal,  Maulana Alonto, Abdulla Camlian and Datu Antonio Kinoc, and TWG members Raissa Jajurie and Ishak Mastura, and Aleem Sukrey Saaber.

The MILF panel proceeded to Kuala Lumpur from a week-long study tour in Japan.  On March 22, Iqbal’s reply to MindaNews’ query if the talks would push through on the 25th was: “it will proceed as scheduled.” He was then in Hiroshima.

Quiet

Like Ferrer, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles, has kept mum on the status of the talks.

To recall, the Aquino administration’s peace process with the MILF in 2010 took sometime to take off because it initially wanted to change Malaysia as third party facilitator.  It later retained Malaysia but asked that the person tasked to facilitate be changed.

As of Sunday evening, the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) was also as quiet. The site was last updated on Friday, March 22, its headline story on the GPH-National Democratic Front talks.  Even the OPAPP’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were quiet on the GPH-MILF talks.

Malaysia has been facilitating the GPH-MILF talks in Kuala Lumpur since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the Presidency in 2001.

Since then,  Malaysia has been the venue of the GPH-MILF negotiations.  The talks from 1997 until the “all-out war” in 2000 were held in the Philippines,  particularly in Maguindanao and Cotabato.

“Non-issue”

The two panels signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoreo (FAB) on October 15 last year in Malacanang, in the presence of President Aquino, Malaysian Prime Minister  Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

The FAB is supposed to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro” which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as soon as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is completed by a15-member Transition Commission.

Based on the FAB roadmap, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority shall be in place as soon as the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified and the ARMM is abolished. Regular elections for the Bangsamoro would be held during the Presidential elections in May 2016.

As agreed upon in the FAB, the two panels were supposed to have completed by end of December 2012 the four annexes needed to complete their comprehensive peace pact: power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities.

Only the transitional annex was completed at the end of the talks in February.

Each month’s delay in the completion of the annexes is a month taken away from drafting of the Bangsamoro basic law and the transition period.

Luwaran.com’s editorial on March 24 hinted there were moves to postpone or change the venue of the talks. It said the MILF peace panel “refused to agree to postpone the peace negotiation in Kuala Lumpur… much more to change the venue.”

Iqbal told reporters who covered the visit of Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe to the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute training center in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on March 12 that the Sabah crisis is “a non-issue.”

“I told them this is more important. The peace process is more important than what is happening now in Sabah,” Iqbal was quoted by the Philippine Star as saying.

“It is a non-issue. We will not discuss that,” he said.

Iqbal in his opening statement at the talks in Kuala Lumpur on February 25 had referred to what was happening in Sabah as the handiwork of “spoilers.”

‘Overtaken by events’

Lawyer Jesus Dureza,  who served as Presidential Adviser on Mindanao and concurrent chair of the peace panel negotiating with the MILF from 2001 until his resignation as panel chair in May 2003, said “events have overtaken the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.”

“Even Malaysia has lost its goodwill as peace facilitator,”  Dureza told MindaNews.

“If they want to solve the Sabah issue, they have to factor in the peace process there,” he said, adding, “they have to discuss it as an issue and not pretend Sabah is not happening.”

Malaysia launched Operasi Daulat (Operation Uphold Sovereignty), with aerial and ground attacks on March  5 to flush out members and supporters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram IIII, one of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu who deployed a group of 200, headed by his brother Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, to Lahad Datu in Sabah, Malaysia.

The Raja Muda’s group had a standoff with Malaysian authorities in Lahad Datu until violence broke out on March 1.

At least 63 alleged members of  Kiram’s group have been reported killed and eight others charged with waging war and terrorism, offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Malaysia’s state-owned news agency, Bernama, on Sunday quoted Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as saying that based on the latest statistics of ‘Ops Daulat,’ 416 persons had been arrested, of whom 110 were being held under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or SOSMA.

SOSMA. which repealed the controversial Internal Security Act of 1960, provides special powers  in dealing with security offenses in Malaysia, allowing a police officer to arrest without warrant and detain “any person whom he has reason to believe to be involved in security offence.”

The law provides for a detention period of 24 hours to a maximum of 28 days “for the purpose of investigation.”

All security offenses are to be tried by the High Court and are non-bailable although exceptions can be made for persons below 18 years old, a woman, or sick or infirm, subject to the attachment of electronic device on the person.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)