29 Malaysians, including IMT HEad of Mission, leaving May 10

The government and MILF peace panels tendered a "farewell dinner" in Cotabato City May 5 for the "outgoing members" of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), including the Malaysian Head of Mission, Major General Datuk Mat Yasin Bin Mat Daud,  who is due for retirement.

Yasin's deputy will assume the post of Head of Mission of the IMT which had 57 members last week – 41 from Japan, 10 from Brunei, five from Libya and the lone development expert from Japan. With the departure of 29, only 28 will be left behind, 12 of them Malaysians.

Yasin and the 28 other Malaysians will return home on May 10. They will be fetched by the Malaysian Air Force plane.

Last week, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib, also Defense Minister, said the first batch of IMT personnel who would return home starting May for the "phased withdrawal" is 21. As it turned out, 29 will leave.

The IMT team site offices in General Santos, Zamboanga and Davao will be closed by May 10, leaving only Team Site Office 1 in Cotabato City which is manned by the Brunei team. Team Site Office 2 in Iligan will not be closed contrary to reports.

Instead, the Libyans will move over to Team Site Office 2 in Iligan, a source privy to the decision told MindaNews.

The source said Team Site 2 will stay to ensure the flashpoints are monitored. The Iligan team in the IMT monitors the ceasefire implementation in the Lanao areas.

But Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, in a paper presented during the roundtable discussion and workshop today on "The Malaysian Pull-Out from the International Monitoring Team (IMT): Implications and Responses," said, that since around seventy percent of the IMT personnel are from Malaysia, "the immediate effect of Malaysia's pull-out is the reduction of peace monitors in the field."

"From May 10 to the end of August this year, the number of IMT monitors will be reduced significantly and their presence will be in Cotabato City only. This will diminish its capability to respond to crises situation, especially when it will happen in areas far from Cotabato City,"  he said.

Lingga also noted that the Head of Mission and (HOM) the Deputy Head of Mission are from Malaysia and that the HOM "usually holds the rank of major general."

"None of the remaining officers is a general. This means downgrading of the status of the head of mission," he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)
    

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