Monday, February 25, 2013

Standoff linked to MILF peace deal?


FMT Staff

February 24, 2013
Back in the Philippines, there are murmurs that former Sultan of the Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, may not be working alone in the 'takeover' of Lahad Datu.
KOTA KINABALU: After almost fading out of the picture, Nur Misuari, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chief and the man who helped put the Southern Philippines on global political map, is back with a bang.
The man who used to travel in and out of Sabah and was often seen in snooker parlours in the state capital back in the 1980s is among several individuals reportedly suspected by Philippines authorities of playing a behind-the-scenes role in the bizarre “invasion” of Sabah by an armed group of Filipinos.
Misuari is reportedly angry the MNLF was not included in a peace deal between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), his rivals for power in the Southern Philippines, and has chosen to use the Sulu Sultanate’s claim to Sabah to reinsert himself into the politics of the region.
Analysts have said that Misuari is aware that he would be rendered irrelevant by any peace deal that may be forged between Manila and the MILF and this is his way of pointing out he is still in the picture.
The historic peace deal signed by Manila and Muslim rebels last October to end the four decades-long conflict in the southern Philippines always risked destabilising and alienating powerful clan leaders, security analysts say.
The peace deal, they said, handed control of much of Sulu to MILF rebels and left out Jamalul Kiram III, 74, a former Sultan of the Sulu as well as Misuari’s MNLF that had struck an earlier peace deal with Manila which had resulted in the formation of the MILF.
Kiram was cited by AFP as saying that the sultanate’s exclusion from the deal, which aims to set up a new autonomous region to be administered by Muslims, prompted the decision to send the men to Sabah this month.
But that’s not the full story. According to a report in news portal The Philippine Star, President Benigno Aquino’s administration believes Kiram is not acting on his own.
Officials note that Kiram is ailing and undergoing dialysis treatment in Manila and in no condition to set in motion the events that have taken place.
The standoff in Sabah has reportedly infuriated Aquino, who suspects that the incident is an attempt to sabotage his administration’s peace initiatives with the MILF that has made marked progress since last year.
The peace agreement was signed last year by the Aquino administration with the MILF, which broke away from Misuari’s MNLF when it was negotiating peace with the government in 1996.
Internal politics
The news portal quoted “highly placed sources” as saying that among those suspected of instigating Kiram are Misuari, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and even Aquino’s uncle, Jose Cojuangco and his wife Margarita, who is running for senator under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
The Cojuangcos are reportedly linked to both Misuari and Kiram, and Margarita Cojuangco reportedly wants to be part of the transition commission for the framework peace agreement with the MILF.
Up to 300 followers of Kiram are still holed up in Lahad Datu surrounded by Malaysian forces. Kiram has said his followers would not leave because “Sabah is our home.”
Sources said the Sulu sultanate’s action in Sabah may also be linked to the recent attacks by an MNLF faction identified with Misuari on Abu Sayyaf strongholds in Jolo, Sulu, to secure the release of mostly foreign hostages.
CNN quoted Julkipli Wadi, the dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines, as saying: “The whole aim (of the incursion into Lahad Datu) is not to create conflict or initiate war, it is just to position themselves and make governments like Malaysia and the Philippines recognise them.”
The armed group in Sabah are said to be part of Kiram’s Royal Sultanate Army which began recruiting members over a decade ago and never gave the Philippine government any problem until this standoff in Sabah.
Kiram is reportedly linked to former Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was part of the Arroyo administration’s senatorial team which was endorsed by the MNLF.
Meanwhile, Misuari has always insisted that Sabah is part of the Philippines and this is indicated in the 1996 peace treaty but not mentioned in the framework agreement with the MILF.
Misuari, who is expected to run as an independent candidate for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the May elections, has also pointed out that the 1996 peace treaty signed with the MNLF has not been fully implemented.
The standoff in Lahad Datu may be a way of derailing the peace process with the MILF.
~ Free Malaysia Today

No comments: