Indonesia wants to join Mindanao foreign truce monitors

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/12 March) — Indonesia wants to join the International Monitoring Team (IMT) mandated to monitor the ceasefire agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said on Friday.

This developed as the new batch of the Malaysian-led foreign truce monitors started their fresh one-year mandate early this week.

Deles said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signified their intention to join the IMT during the state visit of President Benigno Simeon Aquino in Jakarta early this week.

“At the bilateral meeting, Pres. Yudyohono told P-Noy that Indonesia will join IMT to reciprocate the Philippine peacekeeping assistance in Aceh,” Deles, who went with President Aquino in the visit, said in a statement.

However, Indonesia has yet to formally submit its intention to the Philippine government, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

The Philippines, along with the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, has been monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) on August 15, 2005 in Helsinki, Finland.

Indonesia currently chairs the Organization of Islamic Conference- Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP), which brokered the GPH-Moro National Liberation Front peace talks that led to the signing of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) on September 2, 1996.

To date, the Indonesian-led committee has been actively taking part in helping implement the 1996 FPA, according to the OPAPP statement.

Indonesia’s move to join the IMT came as the government announced that the number of armed skirmishes between the government and the MILF dropped to 14 in 2010, partly due to the work of foreign truce monitors.

Army Major Carlos Sol, secretariat head of the government Ceasefire Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, placed the armed skirmishes between the parties at 115 in 2009, most of them in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Sol said there have been no recorded encounters between the government and the MILF since the start of this year.

He noted that the decrease is a significant improvement since the armed clashes involving government troops and the MILF escalated to 218 in 2008 following the failed signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

“The IMT’s work on the ground has made a big impact, too,” Sol said.

Composed of representatives from Malaysian, Brunei, Libya, Japan, and recently, Norway and European Union (EU), the IMT monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF.

The new IMT delegation, the sixth since its deployment in 2004, has a new head of mission in the person of Major Gen. Dato Mahdi bin Yusof of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

Yusof replaced Major Gen.  Datuk Baharom bin Hamzah, head of the IMT-5 whose mandate ended on February 28.

The peace panels of the government and the MILF agreed to renew the mandate of the IMT during the resumption of formal peace talks, the first under the Aquino administration. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)