detail - Auslandsbüro Philippinen
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Last April 21, 208, the Malaysian Foreign Minster Rais Yatim announced that once the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) expires at the end of August 2008, his government will stop sending peace monitors. A Round Table Discussion was organized on May 6, 2008 at Estosan Garden Hotel, Cotabato city by the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), with support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, tackled the implications and responses of the Malaysian pull-out.
General Rodolfo Garcia, Chair of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Peace Panel, believes that there stability on the ground can no longer be guaranteed once the Malaysians pullout of the IMT. The majority of the troops of the IMT are Malaysian.
“The IMT provides support roles to the peace process…(and) ceasefire is significant that it has to be preserved to provide space to build confidence among conflicting parties…To sustain a ceasefire, an independent monitoring body is essential…to keep the negotiations going and to preserve achieved gains,” according to Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, Executive Director of the IBS.
Chief Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiator Mohagher Iqbal expressed to media, “I don’t want to paint a gloomy scenario, but the pull back of the Malaysian International Monitoring Team members gives a very grave signal to everyone.”
According to the MILF Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) before the deployment of the IMT in 2004, classes between the Philippine government and the MILF forces were as high as 559 ceasefire related incidents. The year of the arrival of the IMT, ceasefire related incidents lowered to 15. As of 2007, there were only 7 ceasefire related incidents.
In spite of all the good done by the presence of the IMT, “because there is a need for us (the Malaysians) to indicate that we cannot be there forever... both parties must work closely together to thresh out a peaceful solution, and to underline the seriousness of the situation, we have decided to withdraw some of our peace-keepers,” stated Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to media. He also adds, “We need to show that we cannot and we should not be there as part of the International Monitoring Team indefinitely. There has to be some degree of finality in terms of our presence there.”
According to Prof. Lingga, implications of the Malaysian pull-out to the IMT are as follows: 1) Peace monitors will be reduce because around 70% were Malaysians; 2) No more peace monitors for Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Davao, South Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sarangani, Tawi-tawi, Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga Sibugay provinces; 3) Crisis response will now be more difficult; 4) The head of mission is downgraded, because he used to be a Malaysian Major General; and 5) Upon completion of the Malaysian pull-out, the mandate of the IMT will also expire. Thus meaning, unless the mandate is renewed by the GRP and MILF, the remaining contingents from Brunei, Libya and Japan will also have to leave.