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Peace talks end, but Sabah standoff continues 

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ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 28, 2013) – Philippine peace negotiators ended talks with Filipino Muslim rebels in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of the standoff between hundreds of members of the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian security forces.

Manila said the two-day talks centered on issues on the Bangsamoro homeland which will replace the five-province Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao. But government peace negotiators did not say whether the Sabah standoff was discussed during the talks which ended late Wednesday.

Malaysia is brokering the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which is fighting for decades for self-determination in the southern region which was formerly under the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, now known as Sabah.

Hundreds of Sultanate members headed by Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, a brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, demanded recognition from Malaysia, but Kuala Lumpur flatly rejected the demand.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, said both panels signed the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities that details the road map towards the creation of the Bangsamoro region.

He said they also approved and signed the Terms of Reference for the Independent Commission on Policing which is the body that shall submit recommendations to the peace panels on the police force for the Bangsamoro.

Last year, the Philippines and MILF signed the Bangsamoro framework accord which is considered a breakthrough in the peace talks.

But a group calling itself Anak Sulu said the signing of the Bangsamoro framework agreement proves several things and scenarios to include.

1. The Philippine Government is willing to grant Sub-State status to areas claimed by the MILF. This will thus include the Sulu Archipelago supposed to be a sleeping sovereign state since centuries ago. The framework agreement is just a step away from the declaration of Independence by the MILF within the next few years- with or without the approval of the Manila government or the Sultante of Sulu although this will cover the Sulu archipelago.

2. The Sultanate of Sulu is a nation acknowledged by the Islamic world. It only needs a formalized setup of government (in modern times) to be welcomed among ruling and independent states of the world. And yet the Philippine Government has refused to consider the Sultanate as such.

3. The Sultanate of Sulu should declare its Independence from the Republic of the Philippines. In Mindanao, the occupation army of the Republic of the Philippines stationed in the Sulu Archipelago, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi has been in a state of war since so called grant of Philippine Independence.

The Philippine Military has failed to subjugate the Sulu Archipelago until today. There is nothing more that the Manila government can do to stop this declaration of Independence as it has failed to stop the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf and still dormant Liberations Fronts in Mindanao…the nest of such fronts.

4. These fronts have managed to hold at bay the might of the Philippine Military through these years, and nothing that comes out from blabbering mouths in Malacañang can change the course of things in Southern Philippines.

However, the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy urged the Aquino administration to reactivate its pursuit of the resolution of the Philippine claim over Sabah, which it had filed before the International Court of Justice.

It said a just and peaceful resolution of the sovereign claim of the Sulu Sultanate erstwhile ceded to the Philippine government will remove a thorny issue that has caused much uncertainty in the relationship between Malaysia and the Philippines.

“The Philippine government should protect the proprietary rights of Sultan Jamalul Alam’s heirs, identified in the 1939 ruling of Chief Justice C.F.C. Macaskie of the High Court of North Borneo. The heirs were Dayang-Dayang (Princess) Hadji Piandao, who was acknowledged as the major share-holder with 3/8 share; Princess Tarhata Kiram and Princess Sakinur-In Kiram, were to have 3/16th share each; Mora Napsa, Sultan Esmail Kiram, Datu Punjungan, Sitti Mariam, Sitti Jahara and Sitti Rada, who were awarded 1/24th share each. All the principal heirs have died. The rights of their heirs, most of whom are Filipino citizens, must be protected by the Philippine Government,” PCID said.

The PCID, headed by Amina Rasul, also called on the Aquino government to create a Sabah Committee, under the Office of the President, to address the Philippine Claim to Sabah.

Rasul said the members of the Committee should include the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Local Government, Department of National Defense, Mindanao Development Authority, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, a representative of the Sultanate of Sulu as well as a representative of the heirs to Sabah.

“Past Philippine Administrations have attempted to address the Sabah claim but were unable to reach a lasting and generally acceptable conclusion. However, this must not discourage the stakeholders and peace advocates from pursuing an inclusive, just and sustainable formula that will satisfy the concerns not just of the Philippine and Malaysian Governments but particularly of the Sulu Sultanate and the private heirs to Sabah,” she said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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