Malaysia

MILF warns of violence after Malaysia-brokered peace talks stall

Aquino has abruptly called off scheduled peace talks with MILF. — Reuters picAquino has abruptly called off scheduled peace talks with MILF. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, March 27 ― A Filipino militant group has warned that “dilly-dallying” by the Philippine government in peace talks between them could lead to fresh violence in southern Philippines, even as the Malaysian authorities continue to hunt down Filipino gunmen in Sabah.

The statement by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) came a day before the cancellation of its 37th round of peace talks with Manila due to start this Monday in Kuala Lumpur, the Manila Times reported yesterday.

“The urgency of concluding the peace talks is in the minds of the MILF leadership. We know that the momentum is there but any dilly-dallying is bringing us closer to the other path

“The truth is that if we cannot close this negotiation successfully during the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, we do not know what lies ahead in 2016. And more seriously, it can be a menu for more violence and fighting in Mindanao,” the MILF wrote last Sunday in an editorial piece on its official website, Luwaran.

The piece came after a group of Sulu gunmen intruded Sabah on February 9 to lay claim to the land, sparking worries that it may jeopardise the ongoing peace talks brokered by Malaysia.

But Aquino, who had asked for the peace talks to be pushed to April, said more time is needed for the review and consultation of draft annexes.

“The Sabah issue should not affect the ongoing talks with the MILF,” the Philippines’ president was quoted as saying by Manila Standard Today yesterday.

According to the Manila Times, Malaysia has helped in the peace talks between Manila and the Muslim rebels MILF since 2001.

Last October, both parties signed a historic peace deal, putting a stop to four decades of armed conflict in Mindanao which had claimed some 150,000 lives, and paving the way for the creation of a new autonomous Bangsamoro territory.

But the peace deal irked the self-styled “sultan” Jamalul Kiram III, who claimed that his Sultanate of Sulu was left out in the peace talks despite requests to participate in it.

He told the Reuters news agency that the sultanate’s territories would form part of the Bangsamoro region.

“We were not consulted. When we learned that the government and the MILF will sign an agreement, we met on October 11 and decided to take action to reclaim our lands,” Kiram was quoted saying by the newswire on February 18, days after he ordered his brother Agbimuddin Kiram to lead over 200 armed followers to Sabah.

Clashes between the Malaysian authorities and Kiram’s followers have resulted in more than 70 deaths ― 63 Sulu militants and 10 Malaysian security personnel.

Manila has said it will not abandon the sultanate’s claim over Sabah, but Malaysia insists that the claim is no longer valid due to the inclusion of the state in the 1963 Malaysia agreement.

In a referendum organised by the Cobbold Commission in 1962, two-thirds of the people in Sabah voted to be part of Malaysia.

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