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MILF split is cause for serious concern—Gov’t peace panel

Posted By: Chris Costuya On:


CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Feb. 8, 2011—The government peace panel is looking “with serious concern” at the reported split in the ranks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) just a few days to the resumption of the formal peace negotiations.

However, the government panel is not taking any public position on the issue so as not to “unduly complicate the current situation,” said panel chief, lawyer Marvic Leonen.

“The government panel views the reported resignation of a known commander of the MILF with serious concern and looks forward to a clarification from the MILF panel during the meeting of the parties on February 9 and 10. Until that time, we are careful not to take any public position on this issue that may unduly complicate the current situation,” he said in an emailed statement.

The peace negotiating panels of the government and MILF will go back to the negotiating table on February 9 and 10 in Malaysia.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that resumption of the peace talks “is an opportunity to finally put an end to the conflict that has stunted the country’s development for so long, especially in areas where unrest has caused poverty and death to so many of our people.”

“The talks are crucial as it formally breaks the impasse with the MILF caused by the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD),” Lacierda said in another emailed statement.

For Leonen, the resumption of the peace talks implied the desire and understanding that both parties can deliver a just and lasting peace.

The MILF, on the other hand, said it has maintained an “open line of communication” with Commander Umbra Kato, base commander of the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the MILF.

Kato, in his early 70s, joined the MILF in 1993, five years after the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim returned from Pakistan in 1987.

He is a graduate of Islamic Theology from the Riyadh Islamic University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Before joining the MILF, he taught at one of the madrasahs (Arabic schools) in Davao Oriental and also served as lecturer on Shariah law for those taking the Shariah bar examination.

Kato separated from the BIAF-MILF over issues, such as alleged revisionist policy of the current leadership headed by MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in abandoning the Front’s original stance of independence.

He also alleged that he was arbitrarily booted out of command.

MILF Secretariat chairperson Muhammad Ameen, however, clarified that Kato was not stripped of his command.

“He voluntarily resigned,” he said, adding: “The resignation is contained in a letter to the MILF leadership last year.”

Ameen also said that the MILF under Murad is still “following the ideological and political lines espoused in the book written by the late MILF founder, Salamat Hashim titled ‘Guidelines to the Bangsamoro Mujahid’.”

Salamat is recognized as the foremost ideologue of the MILF. He is not only recognized as a aleem or “learned man” by his peers in Mindanao but also by leading ulamas of his time particularly those of the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Murad said the MILF leadership is negotiating with Kato to return to the MILF.

“We are making headway to convince him to fully return to the fold of the MILF,” the MILF website luwaran.com quoted Murad as saying.

“I believe this problem can still be resolved expeditiously and soon,” he added.

Allaying the fears of many, Murad said Kato is not founding a new organization but only seeking for a separate armed wing called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). (Bong D. Fabe)


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