Peace groups appeal for sobriety on Sabah crisis

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/06 March) – Peace groups in Mindanao and abroad have asked all parties involved in the Sabah dispute to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The Mindanao Peace Weavers, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia, Initiatives for International Dialogue, and Derepa te Erumanen ne Menuvu aired their call through a statement posted in social networking sites.

The groups asked Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines, Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Sultanate of Sulu and its heirs led by Jamalul Kiram III to value “sobriety, calmness, and dialogue”.

The appeal came a day after Malaysian security forces launched an offensive against some 200 followers of Kiram who have holed up in Lahad Datu, Sabah to press the Sultanate’s claim to proprietary rights over the resource-rich region south of Tawi-Tawi Island in Mindanao.

The groups said the situation in Sabah can still be remedied if “we act quickly, calmly and with sobriety, remaining steadfast in our commitment to dialogue, negotiations and ultimately peace.”

“The chilling effect on the long hoped-for peace in the region (Mindanao) spawned by the incident should not be allowed to spread, for it impacts on the future of large populations in the region, be they involved in this dispute or not,” they said.

“The convergence of conditions that engendered this event shows us all that a number of underlying issues may have remained long simmering, out of sight to most of us, and now needs to be addressed sensibly and soon, be it before the public eye or in stages respectful of the sensibilities of all involved,” they added.

The statement implied that there may be people who are seeking to exploit the situation because “they see no benefit for themselves by staying on the path of peace the majority of us have chosen”.

It said that “the time for posturing, threats and armed action, no matter how righteous and particularly at the cost of innocent lives, remains unacceptable. That letting stoked emotions roiling pell-mell into violence, at the cost of reason and value for lives, has no place in a future built on crafting peace for us and generations to follow.”

Meanwhile, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos appealed to the Malaysian and Philippine governments to seek ways to stop further loss of lives and properties.

Lawyer Mehol Sadain, executive director of the NCMF said “the office stands ready to provide advice and assistance to the National Government, and help affected Muslim Filipinos during this time of crisis.”

Sadain said that the commission en banc was studying its recommendations to the national government on the situation, and instructed its office in Tawi-tawi to attend to the needs of the affected Muslim deportees from Sabah and report developments related to the crisis.

The commission also called on Kiram’s followers and Malaysian forces “to exercise restraint and prevent the further shedding of blood among Malay and Muslim brothers.”

It asked all Filipinos to pray for an early end to the crisis.

Anak Mindanao and the Mindanao Solidarity Network scheduled a prayer (Maghrib) and vigil on the Sabah crisis at 5 pm today at the Trade Center of Maharlika, Taguig City. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)