MILF says uncertainty in signing peace pact causing anxiety

Addressing thousands of members here at the end of the three-day “expanded Central Committee” meeting Tuesday morning, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said there is a “common uncertainty (about) concluding a peace pact with the government” which they earlier thought was “still possible during the remaining term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”
 
“It is causing anxiety to many people. Given the delays in the resumption of the peace talks, whether circumstantial or not, this signing of agreement is already suspect,” he said.

Murad had repeatedly asked in previous public appearances, if government was, indeed, “serious” in its talks with the MILF.
 
Murad explained the delayed resumption of the talks is among the reasons behind the consultation-meeting of the “expanded” MILF Central Committee.

“We want to know and ascertain the views of our leaders on this delicate situation of the peace talks, before we decide. We want to do it with one voice and act as one body, which we always did for the last more than three decades,” he said.
 
Murad said the peace process is a “major policy concern that requires a clear reaffirmation of the mandate bestowed to the MILF and its peace panel to negotiate with Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

“This mandate was first bestowed in 1997 before the MILF started to negotiate with the GRP, and renewed resoundingly when the MILF held the General Consultation Assembly in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabungsuan on May 29-31, 2005.”
 
“Beyond any tint of doubt, this mandate was reaffirmed today by the entire leadership of the MILF, being the vanguard in our people’s sacred struggle for freedom and right to self determination. But this renewal of trust is not without the unusual question: ‘is the government serious in the peace talks?’ he asked.
 
Murad said the assembly discussed the need to “consolidate the MILF and unite our people into one nation.”

“There is no substitute for a good and solid organization, even in peace time. More often, men are disunited in time of plenty rather than in time of war. We can cite many examples both in the past and in contemporary times,” he said.

The theme of the conference which ended March 11, was “One people, one struggle, one destiny.”
 
“As in the past, the solidarity and unity of the MILF is clearly demonstrated by this successful gathering, which registered almost perfect attendance from those who were called to come,” Murad said, claiming the MILF has 2 million members with 20 base commands of from 1,000 to 10,000 members each.”

“This is our military strength and we have divided our areas into 46 provincial committees,” he said.
 
He expressed hope that the government peace panel will resume the peace talks but should not subject the consensus points to the provisions of the constitution “because it will just water down what has been consensually agreed and will make the talks an exercise of futility.”
 
“The venue and timing of this meeting are significant in many ways,” he said, explaining that this is the nth time that all 13 ethno-linguistic tribes comprising the main component of the Moro nation are represented here; that Butig in Lanao del Sur as the venue of the meeting, is very meaningful and historic as its the “site of the first general meeting in 1978” of the pioneers behind the organization of the new MNLF leadership, which later became the MILF. Those who participated in that meeting became the core of the present MILF leadership. In 1986, another general meeting was held here,” he said.
 
“In December 1997, the third general meeting was held here which was presided by no less than the late chairman Salamat Hashim. This is also the main stronghold of Vice chairman Aleem Abdulaziz Mimbantas, my brother-in-arm for the last 33 years. He is one of the most powerful pillars of the present struggle, “ Murad said. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

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