Tripartite Review reset; Misuari mum on transition leadership, unification

Misuari, freed on bail from rebellion charges since April 25,  said the tripartite review, last held in January, would not push through on May 26 and 27 as Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda and the Indonesian Ambassador to Manila were “unable to push through” a preparatory meeting of the joint technical working group.

Misuari was vague about what happened but MindaNews sources said the new developments on the MNLF side last month, including the alleged ouster of Misuari as MNLF chair and his replacement with Cotabato City mayor Muslimin Sema, Misuari’s secretary-general during the 1992-1996 peace negotiations with the Philippine government, led to the postponement as the committee was allegedly confused on which MNLF to deal with.

Indonesia headed the Ministerial Committee of the Eight which the 57-nation pan Islamic Organization of the IslamicConference (OIC) tasked to oversee the peace process between the Philippine government and the MNLF, which was granted observer status in 1977.

During the first tripartite meeting in Jeddah in November 2007, the OIC expanded the commitee into the 11-nation Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP). Indonesia still heads that committee.

On April 25, the day Misuari was freed on bail, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a press statement that he hopes that with his temporary liberty, “Chairman Nur will continue to be an important player in the Mindanao peace process.”

Dureza told MindaNews then that the OIC had scheduled on May 27 to 29 in Manila, a tripartite review of the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement the Philippine government and MNLF signed on September 2, 1996.

But on May 18, barely two weeks before the supposed Tripartite meeting, leaders of various alliances from among the MNLF ended a two-day meeting in Tripoli, Libya with an agreement to “form a transition leadership and unification committee” that would include Misuari.

Romeo Montenegro, head of the information office of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said the tripartite meeting was supposed to have been preceded by the Joint Working Group  meeting set second week of May which would finalize presentation of output to the tripartite meeting. "While the government panel was ready for the JWG meeting, it got official notice from the Indonesian Embassy conveying the indefinite postponement of JWG due to 'unforeseen events.'"

Dureza met with the MNLF leaders in Libya as he was also invited there by Muammar Gadaffi’s son, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, chair of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.

Misuari has kept mum about  the supposed Tripoli transition and unification pact, never mentioning it in his 68-minute “State of the Bangsamoro Address” here on Saturday afternoon.

Dureza told MindaNews that Misuari sent two representatives to Libya — his spiritual adviser, Ustadz Shariff Zain Jali and Samsula Adju of Sulu.

But Jali and Adju reportedly said they had “no mandate” from Misuari to sign the unity document.

The “transitional leadership and unification committee” is supposed to be composed of Misuari, Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, Dr. Parouk Hussin, Mujahab Hashim, Isnaji Alvarez and Sulu-Basilan Rep. Yusop-Jikiri.

Misuari and Hussin were former governors of the ARMM, Misuari serving from September 1996 to his arrest in Sabah in November 2001, and Hussin from January 2002 to September 30, 2005.

According to the Joint Press Statement, the MNLF called on the Philippine government, “to enable the MNLF the governance (sic) of the autonomous region (in) Muslim Mindanao,” (ARMM)  expressed their appreciation “on the initiative of the government … to set up a federal system,” and urged the government to “involve the MNLF in this political exercise.”

The MNLF lost the ARMM leadership to Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, son of Maguindanao governor Andal Ampautan, in 2005. ARMM Governor Ampatuan told MindaNews in Jeddah last November that while he was willing to sacrifice his post should it be warranted by the peace process, he would run for reelection if the election pushes through on August 11.

The campaign period for the elections in the six-province, two city region begins on June 27.

The new committee, according to the “Tripoli Declaration on Unity and Reconciliation of the MNLF Leadership” signed by 10 MNLF leaders, will be the ”sole legitimate body of the MNLF and the only one authorized to enter into any negotiation and agreement” and will determine among themselves “on the appropriate way of resolving leadership crisis through democratic process before the end of June 2008.”

The declaration was signed by Mujahab Hashim, Hatimin Hassan (Hatimil Hassan), Muslimin Sema, Parouk Hussin, Yusop Jikiri, Thambeyapa Manjoorsa, Abdul Sahrin, Sharif Jain Jali, Alvarez Isnaji and Samsula Adju.

The committee is also tasked to “convene the Bangsamoro people's congress that shall finally decide on the issue of leadership and adopt a programme of action before the end of August 2008.”

Misuari graced what was referred to as the “2nd Mindanao Leadership Peace Summit” here.

The Tripoli-created committee is also tasked to “prepare a manifesto and a programme of action that shall focus on the political, socio-economic, and other concerns of the Bangsamoro people” and to “enter into dialogue with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)” with a view to cement the unity and solidarity of the two fronts as agreed in previous meetings with Gaddafi’ son.

The Declaration also states that the committee “shall undertake discussions in order to consolidate the peace process between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF, including the issues of empowerment, both economic and political, particularly the ARMM governance.”

The MNLF leaders also committed to “solely focus their attention on  advancing the cause of unity and solidarity, and abide by the decisions of the transition committee.”

The commitment includes refraining “from taking any actions, and making my announcement contrary to this declaration.”

Misuari said he does not know when the tripartite review would be rescheduled.

In a press statement, Guiamel Alim, chair of the Council of Leaders of  the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), a network of Moro-run NGOs, POs, and other sectoral organizations in Mindanao, said the MNLF’s unification declaration in Tripoli is “the best scenario within the MNLF in the light of the ongoing tri-partite review of the 1996 agreement which has been the source of the ‘intra-squabbles.’”

“Here they can prove two important things, namely; that they are a strong entity that is able to transcend difficulties and challenges within the organization and that when the Tripartite review succeeds to their favor (and for the Bangsamoro), they indeed made the correct political decision to enter into an agreement for autonomy,” CBCS said
“As we rejoice in the news of unity and reconciliation within the MNLF, we, the Bangsamoro people and the civil society, the right holders of the struggle, further challenge the MNLF and the MILF as duty holders and both claiming to be the vanguards, representatives, guardians and protectors of the Bangsamoro to strengthen their resolve to work together for a unified and effective solution to the Bangsamoro cause,” the CBCS said.

“If there is one reality that every Bangsamoro has dreamt of, it is for the elusive sun of just and lasting peace to finally shine in their homeland. This aspiration will indeed come to reality when we have common goal, united in purpose and consider each other’s existence as a blessings,” the CBCS said, concluding with a quote from the Koran to “hold unto the rope of Allah all together… and don’t be divided.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)