KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/25 May) – The government has consulted a group of ulama (Islamic scholars) in Mindanao during a meeting in Marawi City earlier this week and assured them of its “sincerity” in the ongoing peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a government peace panel member said.
“Sincerity is out of the question because the GPH has always been sincere in the negotiations,” said Dr. Hamid A. Barra, a member of the government peace panel, in a statement released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Barra held the consultation in Marawi with members of the Philippine Usrah Foundation, Inc. ahead of the next round of the GPH-MILF formal exploratory talks later this month.
Barra is himself an aleem, an Islamic scholar dedicated to studying Islamic history, laws and way of life. Ulama is the plural form of aleem.
The Islamic forum was attended by ulama from the municipalities of Ditsaan-Ramain, Marantao, Masiu and Bacolod-Kalawi in Lanao del Sur. Islamic educators from the main campus of Mindanao State University in Marawi City, Jamiatu Marawi Al- Islamia Foundation, and Qualisi International School were also in attendance.
Dean Talib Benito, head of the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies in MSU, raised the importance of GPH consultations to the ulama in Marawi.
“This consultation is important because it determines the valid opinions of the ulama in Marawi with regard to the current GPH-MILF negotiations. We all hope for the speedy signing of a peace agreement between the two parties before the 2013 elections,” he said.
Barra provided pertinent information to the forum participants, particularly on the recent developments in the GPH-MILF talks wherein both parties signed the Decision Points on Principles last April 24 in Kuala Lumpur.
The document contains 10 mutually identified standpoints that will guide the succeeding round of negotiations toward a final peace pact.
Aleem Abdul Salam Disomimba urged other Usrah members to get involved in the peace process.
“As Islamic educators, each of us should share our views with respect to the negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the MILF,” he said. “What then can we suggest to the GPH and MILF panels?”
In response to this call, Judge Aboali Cali of the Regional Trial Court Shari’ah suggested the creation of a national and local contact group, which will raise valid concerns and suggestions of the Bangsamoro groups in the area to the GPH and MILF panels.
He said he hopes for the panels to accommodate his proposal but stressed that he highly “recognizes the effort and help being provided to the negotiations by the International Contact Group (ICG) and the International Monitoring Team (IMT).”
The ICG, which is composed of members from international government and non-government groups, is mandated to exert the necessary leverage and assistance towards sustaining the trust and confidence of both sides at the negotiating table. On the other hand, the IMT is a group that monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF. It is comprised of representatives from Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Japan, Norway and the European Union.
Meanwhile, Aleem Ustadj Omar raised the issue on the alleged delaying tactics happening in the talks. He said that “[he] knows from the past and up until now, that there are delaying tactics happening in the negotiations.”
However, Barra countered this allegation and reiterated his assurance that the GPH panel is sincere in its efforts to craft an agreement that will solve the Bangsamoro problem.
He promised to relay the concerns of the ulama to the GPH panel before the next round of talks.
The GPH and MILF panels are expected to meet anew later this month to discuss thoroughly the substantive issues in the negotiations. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)