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Naturally… an independent facilitator…before a politically negotiated settlement

December 30, 2010

MILF awaits Malaysia decision on facilitator for peace talks

By Richel Umel, Ryan Rosauro
Inquirer Mindanao First Posted 22:03:00 12/29/2010

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has decided to leave question of whether Datuk Othman bin Abdulrazak should continue to be the chief facilitator of the Mindanao peace process to the Malaysian government, a rebel official said.

This developed after the Philippine government announced it has formally relayed to Kuala Lumpur its position that it wanted Abdulrazak replaced.

“We subscribe to the wisdom of Malaysia,” Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, told the Inquirer on Tuesday.

The government’’s position to have Abdulrazak replaced had become one of the hindrances to the resumption of the exploratory talks with the rebels.

The MILF has initially insisted on his retention even as the government claimed Abdulrazak was biased.

“These are two immovable positions. But there is always a way forward,” Iqbal said when asked if there can be a compromise on Abdulrazak”s case.

But he said Kuala Lumpur would be able to address the issue.

“Although we have asked Malaysia to retain Othman, we are always ready to abide by its decision on who will stand as chief facilitator. That’s the essence of our position on the issue,” he said.

Earlier, the MILF central committee, in a resolution, formally asked Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to reject the government’’s demand for Abdulrazak”s replacement.

“We expect that government will also respect the decision of Malaysia on the matter,” Iqbal said.

In a press statement issued on Tuesday, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen expressed confidence that “the proper officials in Malaysia already know our concerns” relating to the facilitator issue.

“These have been communicated to them through the proper channels. We understand that the good offices they offer for the talks will take all these issues into consideration,” Leonen said.

He said the government panel also told Malaysian authorities “that we desire to have an acceptable politically negotiated settlement at the soonest possible time.”

Leonen explained that by having a politically negotiated settlement the earliest time possible, “the energies of all can be channeled to addressing justice, lasting peace, sustainable development and prosperity for all peoples in Mindanao.”

Despite the delay in the resumption of the talks, Leonen said they have “continued with consultations with relevant sectors on many of the issues raised by the MILF” in its proposed comprehensive compact.

“We still remain optimistic that talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will resume in January,” Leonen said in an earlier statement.

He said the government “agrees that the facilitator issue needs to be resolved.”

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