Although disappointed at the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has expressed continued support for the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) way beyond the term of President Benigno Aquino III, who is stepping down from power on June 30.
Razak made this commitment in a statement published Friday in Malay Mail Online after his meeting with MILF chief Murad Ebrahim a day earlier in an undisclosed location in Malaysia.
"Malaysia is ready and willing to work with the next president of the Philippines, regardless who will win the election... It is my personal wish to see lasting peace prevails," Razak said.
Malaysia plays a key role in the Bangsamoro peace process, principally as facilitator of the political negotiations with the MILF since 2001.
"I envision the Philippines-MILF peace process as a model for resolving long-standing conflicts. This process has not only brought relative peace to the southern Philippines but also to the region," Razak noted.
"Should the process finally be completed, it would also insulate Southeast Asia from threats by militant groups. I am confident that the conflicting parties will remain committed to find lasting peace, and Malaysia will continue to be an honest broker in this process," he added.
Apart from facilitating the negotiations, a senior Malaysian military officer also heads the multi-country International Monitoring Team (IMT) created by the parties in 2004 to monitor implementation of a ceasefire accord.
"As a testament of Malaysia's commitment, Defense Minister, YB Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein will be accompanying our new batch of observers in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) during the handing-over process in Cotabato City next month," Razak said.
During the meeting of the government and MILF peace panels last February 10 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur, they renewed the mandate of the IMT up to March 2017. The tour of duty of the current IMT contingents ends next month, necessitating the deployment of a new batch of monitors.
The oldest of the peace mechanisms, the IMT is composed of contingents coming from Brunei, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Norway.
Razak said his meeting with Murad was aimed "to discuss the peace process in southern Philippines which Malaysia is facilitating."
"Overall, we shared common sentiment over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Philippines Congress," Razak said.
Murad, in a February 18 statement, expressed the MILF's "deep disappointment and grave dismay" over the fate of the proposed measure in the 16th Congress, although he urged the Moro people to "let reason prevail over emotion."
"During the discussion, I convinced H.E. Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim that despite the current setback, the MILF must remain faithful to the peace process since it is a practical choice to resolve the Bangsamoro issue," Razak said.
"Reverting to armed struggle is definitely not an option and bloodshed must be avoided at all costs," he added.
The Malaysian Prime Minister witnessed and delivered a speech during the signing ceremony of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012, and again in March 2014 for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
In both occasions, Razak praised the leadership of both Murad and Aquino for achieving the historic feat of mustering a blueprint for eventual peace in Mindanao.
Razak related that during their February 25 meeting, Murad "has pledged his utmost commitment to sustain peace and its dividends."
"I have reached an understanding with H.E. Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim that the MILF should preserve the most significant gain of the peace process, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro," he said.
Source: Sun Star