Ambassador assures Malaysia wants peace in Mindanao ‘ASAP’

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 March) — Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Datu Seri Ibrahim Saad assured Bukidnon officials Friday his government wanted peace to be achieved in Mindanao “as soon as possible”.

Saad said this is the commitment that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak wanted to relay to the people of Mindanao.

Malaysia is the third party facilitator in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

But Saad did not comment on the status of the Malaysian facilitator in the talks except to say that both peace panels already knew the prime minister’s decision.

“I will not come in the way of the two panels,” he said.

The government peace panel had earlier asked the Malaysian government to change the facilitator, Datuk Othman bin Abdul Razak, for alleged bias. But the MILF wanted him retained.

Saad said peace in Mindanao is also important to Malaysia as the Philippines is a close neighbor.

“We should promote connectivity between our people,” he added.

Saad cited the presence of Filipinos in Sabah as proof of the close relations between the two countries.

He said many centuries ago people traveled freely between Sabah, Tawi-tawi and Sulu and that this practice stopped when borders started to be drawn.

“Our great, great grandfathers knew they were moving in the same world,” he said.

“We have to understand these connections,” he added.

Saad told MindaNews he has started convincing his government to send to the Philippines some of the 11,000 students they repatriated from Egypt. He said he has already started visiting medical schools in the country who can probably qualify.

But he noted that there is preference in Malaysia for schools that meet British standards.

He also said there is increasing interest among Malaysian investors to do business in the Philippines, citing the plan of Malaysian Air Asia to operate a low-cost carrier in the Philippines later this year.

But he said Malaysian investors were still scared of Mindanao, although he opined that the media has not accurately portrayed the peace and order situation in the island.

Saad was in Malaybalay City on a personal visit in time for Kaamulan 2011. He was accompanied by officials from the embassy and their Davao consulate.

The ambassador watched the Kaamulan 2011 ground and street performances on March 5. He was also asked to help give the plaques to the winners. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)