GPH, MILF panels to meet again in March

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/15 February) – The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels have agreed to invite two consultants each when they resume talks in March but gave no hint in their Joint Statement that an agreement or agreements could be signed “within the first quarter” as targeted by government.

The two panels ended their three-day talks on contentious substantive issues at the Penang Room of the Sheraton Imperial Hotel mid-afternoon Wednesday, with a carefully worded statement that  expressed their  “satisfaction on the progress of their discussions” but recognized the “many challenges that have  yet to be resolved in order to find a political solution to the Bangsamoro Question and the armed conflict in Mindanao.”

The Statement acknowledged the “need to explore creative approaches that will address the political, legal and other dimensions of the problem.”

The panels are resolving issues on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, territory, and interim period.

The talks ended Wednesday, with only 45 days left to the end of the first quarter.

The Malaysian facilitator of the talks, Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, had described to MindaNews before the sessions resumed Wednesday morning that the discussions were “very tough.”

Just before proceeding to Penang Room, Tengku said the discussions were “sincere but tough.”

Based on their Joint Statement, the panels agreed to invite two consultants each to their respective delegations in the March talks. The date of next month’s talks is not indicated in the Statement.

The panels also agreed to renew the mandate of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for another year beginning February 2012. The AHJAG’s previous mandate expired on February 10.

The AHJAG is a “joint team against criminal elements operating in MILF areas/communities, in order to pursue and apprehend such criminal elements.” It operates in tandem with their respective ceasefire committees, on the “isolation and interdiction of all criminal syndicates and kidnap-for-ransom groups including so-called ‘Lost Commands’ operating in Mindanao.”

The Parties also considered reports from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) but did not indicate what these reports focused on.

In the December 2011 talks, the mandate of the Malaysian-led IMT was renewed for another year from its expiration in March 2012.

The new Head of Mission, Major General Dato Abdul Rahim bin Mohd. Yussof of  the Royal Malaysian Air Force, is taking over the IMT this week.

In  their opening statements on January 9, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen and ILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal expressed optimism an agreement would be forged soon.

Leonen said “within this first quarter, let us attempt to craft an agreement” while Iqbal said “we want to finish this process as soon as possible and give our people the much sought for peace.”

But when the talks ended on  January 11, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) issued a press statement quoting Leonen as saying, “we have inched forward but not fast enough” and that there was “very slight movement.”

An OPAPP press release on February 15 quoted Leonen as saying the peace process with the MILF “has moved forward… Now we have moved at least a few feet” and that “the day will come, I hope very, very soon that we will be able to sign a peace agreement.”

Iqbal in his opening statement on February 13, said all the issues had been laid on the table  –power-sharing, wealth-sharing, territory, and interim period and “we must tighten our belt and continue to deal with these issues head-on, bearing in the mind that time is running out, if we are to take into consideration the view of the GPH that the comprehensive compact has to be signed next month.”

Iqbal  asked the government peace panel to “consider seriously from now on putting all these agreed points including the 11-point formulation” in December 2011 “into formal documents and sign them, so we can tell ourselves that indeed we have achieved something and we are moving forward.”

“We propose that in this round of talks, we focus once more on the substantive issues and explore common grounds. We acknowledge that the issues that we tackle now are the more difficult ones but we are optimistic that we can find mutually viable solutions. Let us redouble our efforts to conclude these negotiations in the soonest possible time.  The sooner, the better,” Leonen said in his February 13 opening statement.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

 

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2012/02/16/gph-milf-panels-to-meet-again-in-march/

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