7 for 7: MILF’s 7-par response to GMA’s: ‘we’ll keep combatants in place, too’
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 March) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vowed to match the government’s move to “keep combatants in place” as it welcomed President Arroyo’s statement directing government forces to uphold the primacy of the peace process and exercise restraint in the use of artillery and aerial bombings in military operations, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.
Ebrahim, in a press statement posted at the MILF website Thursday, said the MILF is not stepping up war and is responding positively to the President’s pronouncement on March 12 but warned against “spoilers of the peace process,” including what he said were “hawkish military officers and policymakers.”
President Arroyo on March 12 issued a seven-paragraph statement, the longest on the GRP-MILF peace process, since she became President in January 2001. The statement was issued after a Cabinet meeting that discussed the issues leading to the near-collapse of the peace talks.
In his seven-paragraph response, Murad said the government’s move is the right step to de-escalate violence, arrest the current deteriorating situation on the ground and align the military’s tactical actions on the ground to the AFP’s vow to uphold the primacy of the peace process and to adhere to the 1997 ceasefire agreement.
But Murad noted the “harsh reality” that government “responsibility to protect” suffers credibility when AFP commands near MILF areas are “perceived to disregard the preventive measures or any anticipatory measures that both parties and joint ceasefire committees have arranged with the International Monitoring Team (IMT).”
Murad said the MILF will keep a shortlist of the peace process “spoilers” as earlier mentioned and those with “selfish strategic or economic interests that do not auger well for the comprehensive political settlement.”
Murad, however, said the “ultimate success of prolonged cessation of hostilities, supported by the Moro people and civil society, is ‘when soldiers cease to become cops’ among noncombatants or, when police work becomes truly ‘civilian in character.’”
Murad said the IMT’s role is not based on “coercive means” and that those who challenge or evade it “run the risk of ruining confidence in the peace process itself.”
He said the IMT, headed by Malaysia with Libya and Brunei as members, has been joined by Japan for the socio-economic side. Sweden has also expressed interest.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza has acknowledged that the ceasefire violations in Midsayap have caused a setback in the resumption of the talks, with the Malaysian government expressing disappointment.
“Peace will reign when the military solution is contained and trigger violations are not repeated,” Murad said. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)