Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put”

Gus Miclat*/Special to MindaNews
Saturday, 07 June 2008 20:32
var sburl4310 = window.location.href; var sbtitle4310 = document.title;var sbtitle4310=encodeURIComponent(“Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put””); var sburl4310=decodeURI(“”); sburl4310=sburl4310.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl4310=encodeURIComponent(sburl4310);MANILA (MindaNews/07 June) — “Malaysia should stay put,” former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in response to an appeal by the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) for him to assist in the peace talks in Mindanao.

Ibrahim’s comments on the reported pullout of the Malaysian contingent in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao was on MPW’s specific request for him to “help us (MPW) convince your government to please continue to stay on as the leader of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao and to be in general patient with our peace process.”

In an exclusive interview, Ibrahim said the quest and accompaniment for peace must be paramount even if there may have been compelling reasons for Kuala Lumpur to think about pulling out as the peace negotiation has continued to drag and some initial agreements on the framework of the talks had been reneged upon.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers,  the broadest coalition of civil society peace networks in the island, sent their letter to Ibrahim saying it was awed by what he represented and epitomized “not only in your beloved Malaysia but also in this region and the Muslim world in general.”

“We understand that it may be very disappointing for Malaysia to facilitate and broker the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front without seeing any huge strides, but the IMT has definitely contributed to the relative silence of the guns in Mindanao. Trust and harmony among the combatants and more so among the general population could also be attributed to their presence.  Leaving the IMT, or even a hint of downsizing your presence has released a deep anxiety among our people. And we know that anxiety can lead to hostilities,” the MPW said.

The Malaysian IMT contingent is set to end its mission in August. Its tour of duty can be extended according to the Terms of Reference but only upon the request of both the Philippine government and the MILF. The Philippine government has sought more Libyan presence at the IMT.

Both panels have yet to meet after its last exploratory talks in November 2007.

Earlier, in September 2006, the talks ended in an impasse which was finally broken 13 months later, in October 2007.

In December 2007, when both panels were supposed to finalize the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, the MILF peace panel refused to meet with its counterpart after receiving a government draft that the MILF claimed, veered away from the two sides’ consensus points.

Ibrahim arrived in Manila last Thursday to address a colloquium on Islam, Politics and the Prospects for Peace sponsored by the De La Salle Graduate School and the Asian Institute for Democracy.  Deposed President Joseph Estrada tendered a dinner in his honor, with former President Corazon Aquino among the guests.

Ibrahim could become Malaysia’s next Prime Minister as the People’s  Justice Party he founded and led by his wife chalked up a hefty number of seats in the recent parliament elections and is reportedly on the verge of forming a government along with defectors from the ruling  Barisan coalition which he also once led along with his mentor, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

Mahathir sacked him after Ibrahim questioned certain policies related to fiscal reforms prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and sent him to jail on sodomy and other graft charges which the courts dismissed after six years in detention. Mahatir meanwhile retired from his post and resigned from the ruling party after a row with his successor and incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mahathir’s choice to replace Ibrahim then and eventually anointed him his successor as well.

Ibrahim’s three-party alliance won an unprecedented 82 seats in the March 8, 2008 elections, shaking the ruling national front’s grip on power for the last 40 years.  They only need another 30 seats more to form a government. Malaysia’s parliament has 222 seats. Ibrahim thinks he can form the government by September but wants the transition to be peaceful and democratic. September is symbolical, as September 16, 1963 was when the Malaysia Federation was formed.

Ibrahim said that if his party takes over the government, the dynamics will entirely be different, thus, the approach and role of the Malaysian government in the Mindanao peace process will also be one that is more pro-active and inclusive.

He said he would have loved to meet with and listen to leaders of the MPW and civil society in general and offer anything to help achieve peace not only in Mindanao, but apologized that his visit to the country was brief. He promised to do so in the next opportunity. The MPW has meanwhile invited him to come to Mindanao.

Ibrahim also met last Friday with former President Fidel Ramos, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Senate President Manny Villar, administration senator Edgardo Angara and other officials from both the current and past administrations and the opposition.

Ibrahim was in the country last September to keynote the second assembly of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA).  The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Davao-based regional advocacy and solidarity organization and Mindanao Peaceweavers’ lead secretariat, organized and hosted the assembly. (*Gus Miclat is the Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue).

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