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MILF chief: Gov’t ‘dilly-dallying’ threatening peace process

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Warns of ‘other means’ to attain objectives

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:40:00 04/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) accused government of “dilly-dallying and spoiling” the peace process in the south and warned they might resort to “other means” to achieve their objectives.

Reacting quickly, the chief government negotiator appealed to the secessionist rebels for “forbearance,” saying a number of so-called “consensus points” have to be studied carefully and resolved before an agreement on the contentious issue of ancestral domain issue is reached.

In a statement, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim claimed government’s refusal to abide by the consensus points in the last round of talks is the reason Malaysia, the third party facilitator of the negotiations, announced a pullout of its ceasefire monitors.

“If the peace process fails as a result of the GRP’s [Government of the Republic of the Philippines] dilly-dallying and spoiling, we are left with no choice but to seek other means of achieving our objective. Should that happen, the government is to blame for failing to settle the conflict through diplomatic means,” Murad said in the statement posted on the MILF’s website.

Murad said only the government’s concurrence with all the consensus points would save the peace process from “falling apart” and would signal Malaysia on the need to schedule a fresh round of negotiations.

He said the MILF “firmly believes” in the position of its late chairman, Salamat Hashim, that, “the most civilized and practical way of solving the Moro problem is through a negotiated political settlement.”

During the last round of talks in Kuala Lumpur in February, the government and the MILF drafted nine consensus points, six of which were “largely approved” by Malacañang, said GRP peace panel chairman Rodolfo Garcia.

The MILF submitted its counterproposals on the three remaining points to the GRP, but these have yet to be approved by Malacañang, Garcia told INQUIRER.net.

The three points include the “concept of aspiration of freedom” of the Bangsamoro people, the “degree of powers over strategic resources,” and “establishment of political institutions,” Garcia said without elaborating.

Garcia acknowledged that the three points, if not studied thoroughly, could raise constitutional issues and could open the government to criticism.

“We are looking at these issues. These are not easy issues. These issues are potentially controversial,” he said.

“The slowdown in this phase of the talks is really understandable and should be understood by the MILF and the Malaysian government,” he added.

While no timeline has been set, Garcia said the government would act on the MILF’s counterproposals “the soonest that we can.”

“We know the urgency. We are very aware of the urgency. We know the ball is in our court,” he said.

“I surely would like to convey to our MILF counterparts to understand the reason for the slowdown in the process. I’d like to assure them that the negotiation is very much alive, very much on track. I would like to ask for their forbearance,” he said.

Asked if government action on the three remaining consensus points would require amendments to the Constitution, Garcia said: “It’s an option.”

He said there have been no formal or informal talks between the GRP and MILF panels.

Garcia also doused fears that the impending pullout of the Malaysian contingent to the international monitoring team (IMT) would lead to revived hostilities between the military and MILF.

While he was not discounting the contributions of the IMT, Garcia said the joint ceasefire committee of the GRP and MILF has developed strong mechanisms to prevent an outbreak of fighting.

View article as posted on INQUIRER.net

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-04-29T09:03:00+00:00UTC04bUTCTue, 29 Apr 2008 09:03:00 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

Posted in Uncategorized

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