DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 March) – Calls for an end to violence in Sabah and to resolve the conflict through dialogue have been mounting, as the death toll since the stand-off in Lahad Datu, Sabah ended on Friday, had risen to 27 as of Sunday.
Secretary Mehol Sadain, chair of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) called on the parties involved in the Philippines and Malaysia to “stretch their patience and exhaust all peaceful and diplomatic means to resolve the crisis without further violence and bloodshed.”
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue In Southeast Asia based at the Ateneo de Davao University, called for “active non-violence” to stop the bloodshed.
In Davao City, Nur Misuari, chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said late Saturday night that “cooler heads” must prevail to stop the bloodshed in Sabah from escalating.
He urged the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, whom he claims to be a friend, to “desist from sending more forces… tone down your voice ” and the Sultan of Sulu “not to aggravate the situation.”
“We must talk in a brotherly way,” he said.
On Friday, the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) called on Malaysian authorites and the followers of Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram’s “to immediately halt the needless violence and exercise restraint”
It called on senior government officials to make “tempered and informed statements, without needlessly adding to the escalating tension” and called on various political groups, in Malaysia and Philippines, to “refrain from using this powder-keg situation for their vested interests.”
“This situation can still be peacefully resolved. This is the time for sobriety and for knowledgeable and more experienced heads to intervene before more lives are lost,” the PCID statement issued by its president, Amina Rasul, said.
Laisa Alamia, chair of the ARMM’s Human Rights Commission, said they are coordinating with other agencies in anticipation of the deportation of Filipinos from Sabah to Tawi-tawi or Zamboanga City.
Alamia told MindaNews they are proceeding to Tawi-tawi to “monitor the returnee situation and help ensure that the rights of the returnees are protected and their needs provided for by the appropriate agencies.”
“We’re continuously monitoring now the situation in Sabah and we are alarmed that there are reports of continuing violence that could undermine the security of thousands of Filipinos living there. Nevertheless, beyond the legalese and the political implications of the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim, we call for sobriety and the peaceful resolution of the issues, and for all the parties involved to comply with, respect and uphold the basic principles of International Humanitarian Law and human rights law in the treatment of civilians affected by the crisis,” she said.
A report from Malaysia’s The Star Online posted at 3:25 p.m. Sunday said five policemen were killed “when they were ambushed at a village on stilts in the east coast town of Semporna late Saturday,” Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said.
Omar said a police team entered Kampung Sri Jaya within the seaside Siminul settlement “to hunt for a group of armed gunmen when they were fired upon.”
He said two of the gunmen were killed in the shootout with the police team.
On Friday, the death toll was at 15 as confirmed separately by the Malaysian Prime Minister, the Malaysian Ambassador to Manila and the Sabah police commissioner. Killed were two Malaysian policemen, the owner of the house where the leader of the group from the Sultanate of Sulu stayed, and “12 Sulu gunmen.”
In Taguig City, Abraham Idjirani, the spokesperson of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III told a press conference on Sunday that they received reports an Imam (religious leader) and his four children were killed when Malaysian forces attacked a village in Semporna, ABS-CBN news.com reported.
The Star Online’s Sunday report and Idjirani’s claim of five dead brought to 27 the total number of dead since
Friday – 14 persons believed to be from Kiram’s group, seven Malaysian policemen and the owner of the house where Kiram stayed — and five from the Imam’s family.
In a statement on Saturday, President Benigno Simeon Aquino called ofn Kiram’s group who are still in Sabah to “surrender now, without conditions.
“Surrender” is a word frowned upon by Tausugs.
“I do not like to call for their surrender because that is cowardice if they will surrender,” Dr. Samsula Adju, who intrduced himself as “Member of the Parliament” of the MNLF’s State of Lupah Sug Bangsamoro National People’s Parliament,” told reporters Sunday afternoon.
“ But I would call the government of Malaysia in Sabah to involve other people like the MNLF for possible negotiation but not to surrender. For them to negotiate peacefully,” Adju said.
“As a Tausug, I mourn the death of fellow Tausugs in Lahad Datu in Sabah. As a Muslim, I am aghast at Muslims killing their fellow Muslims on land they consider part of their homeland,” Sadain posted on his Facebook wall.
Sadain said his office is “ready to extend all assistance to resolve the stand-off.”
Al Qalam called on the “active players of the Sabah incident” to “go back to the negotiating table.” Executive Director Mussolini Lidasan told MindaNews they want the “claimants of Sabah and Malaysia” to return to the negotiating table, adding that the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is just one of the claimants.
Recalling the Bud Dajo Massacre in the first week of March 1906 in Sulu, Al Qalam said hundreds were massacred by the US military, with the Kirams “on the side of the Americans.”
“It was a bloody battle for the Tausugs. Out of the hundreds of them, only six survived. Fast forward, 2013 we have another incident involving the Tausugs and their sultanate. The Kirams’ claim is that they are (on) the side of their people. The same three factors are at stake, land/territory, honor, and “principle.”
Al Qalam asked: “have we really learned from the past? Have we seen the horrors of war, armed conflict, and having the innocent civilians as casualties of collateral damage?”
The Institute issued three other calls.
It called on Muslim brothers and sisters to “remember that Islam means to live a life of peace” and that the “greatest form of jihad is the jihad within ourselves and our desires;” on fellow Mindanawons “to issue statements to stop the conflict and violence in Sabah” and called on the Bishops and Ulama to “lead a strong movement in order to convince our government, the Tausugs and the Sultante of Sulu that our religion calls us to be peaceful and to value life and not destroy it”
“Our time has come when we walk the talk of working for peace in action. If we will not do these, then we commit the same mistake over and over again,” Al Qalam said.
Assistant Secretary Noor Saada of the ARMM’s Department of Education said what happened in Lahad Datu “tells us a lesson.”
“ Resolve it now peacefully in a proactive and inclusive manner or be ready for yet another armed confrontation in the future,” Saada posted on his Facebook wall. (Carolyn O. Arguillas with a report from Lorie Ann Cascaro)