Mindanao Peaceweavers on Sulu: “spare relief operations, ceasfire now”

Today, April 29, the Mindanao Peaceweavers has called: “Spare relief operations from election interests, ceasefire now”

FULL TEXT OF STATEMENT: “From war zone, to economic zone” is the official slogan of the Province of Sulu.

But it is “back to war zone again”– that is how civil society describes
the situation in Sulu today. In this tiny, but perennially embattled
island, what is abnormal has become normal. Community life is permeated with insecurity, suspicions and violence. And with over fifty thousand evacuees now rendered homeless because of the renewed fighting between the
military and the Moro National Liberation Front, Sulu is embroiled in a  humanitarian quagmire.

The voice of one Babuh Insih is telling. Babu, who hails from Indanan
revealed in a round-table forum in Zamboanga early this week that this
recent war marks the 13th time she has evacuated.

Last April 18, the deafening roar of canons again assaulted her community in Barangay Licup prompting her family to run for safety. She arrived along with thousands
more at the evacuation center with virtually nothing. As always, their
sustenance was now at the mercy of food rations from relief agencies.

But the expected relief goods never came.

Even as tons of food arrived at the port of Jolo since April 21 amidst the
rapid response from international organizations and relief groups to the
crisis, sadly it is taking ages to distribute them to the evacuees.

Like the evacuees caught in the armed conflict as collateral damage, the 4,420
sacks of rice from international relief assistance are moot captives in
the contest among political interests who want to use the rice as their
campaign tool in the coming election.

This is double jeopardy to the fifty thousand civilians, mostly women and children who are hungry and thirsty. Their access to regular, timely and adequate relief assistance
spells life and death in the evacuation centers.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers call upon our leaders and politicians to set
aside their selfish political agenda and refrain from putting any pressure
and undue influence that disrupt the quick, steady and unhampered
distribution of relief goods.

We call upon the military to recognize the independence of relief agencies and social welfare groups in responding to the humanitarian needs of the evacuees.

We recommend the installation of an efficient, transparent, unimpeded distribution system and enhance coordination mechanisms between and among relief agencies with the
participation of civil society and Bangsamoro women leaders.

We believe that support of the Bangsamoro women will ensure speedy, transparent and
systematic relief distribution.

The humanitarian crisis is clearly an offshoot of a complex political problem that has besieged not only Sulu but mainland Mindanao for centuries.

If government continues to ignore the root causes of the problem by selectively citing legalese concepts like the rule of law in its treatment of the likes of Ustadz Habier Malik, it will never be able to touch the core issue of the conflict.

No wonder the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is now addressing relief operations instead of stepping up processes for dialogue with the MNLF and
heed the proposal of the OIC for a ceasefire.

We urge both government and the MNLF to open the channels for dialogue and
take immediate steps to avert an escalation of violence. We believe that the genuine full implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement will be decisive in preventing moderate revolutionary leaders from joining extremist elements and groups.

Once we abrogate this internationally- supported covenant by pursuing full military operations in Sulu, we simply push our own people to the morass of global terrorism.
God forbid, the consequences are simply unimaginable. (Courtesy of Mindanao1081 loop)

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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