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A new beginning for Mindanao
Publication Date : 16-10-2012
The people of the troubled region of Mindanao can finally look forward to a peaceful future after the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the framework peace agreement to end a 40-year-old conflict.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak witnessed the signing at the Philippine Palace at 3:00pm yesterday which was greeted by loud cheers from the crowd at the Rizal Hall.
The Philippine government and MILF will now work out details of the agreement, including power and wealth-sharing in the proposed autonomous region of Bangsamoro that they hope will be realised by 2016, ending the four-decade uprising that has claimed more than 150,000 lives.
Najib, in remarks before the signing, said that Malaysia, facilitator of the peace talks, was willing to continue to help as a “partner for peace” in Mindanao, and was willing to assist in such fields as training and education as well as invest in land development.
“I give my assurance to all the people of the Philippines we will stand with you to make this agreement work.
“Today, something has changed. Today, we turn our backs on violence, and turn instead towards a new and brighter future,” Najib said to enthusiastic applause from the audience which included foreign diplomats.
The agreement was signed by the chairmen of the Philippine and MILF negotiating panels Dean Marvic Leonen and Mohagher Iqbal with Malaysian facilitator Tengku Abdul Ghaffar Tengku Mohd as the official witness.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino in his speech thanked Najib for assistance in the peace talks which Malaysia had facilitated since 2001.
“Today, we sign a framework peace agreement that can finally bring lasting peace on the ground,” Aquino said.
Presidential adviser Teresita Quintos Deles paid tribute to Tengku Abdul Ghaffar whom she described as the “editor-in-chief” of the peace process “who always found a way to keep the talks going when things got tough”.
“He often said we were on the same page but sometimes looking at different paragraphs,” she said, drawing laughter and applause.
MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim said it was his first time at Malacanang and that he never dreamed of ever being able to set foot in the Philippine Palace.
“Today after years of negotiation we have inked the most important document in the chapter of our people's history, a document that restores the Bangsamoro people their identity and empowers them to forge their destiny and future with their very hands,” Murad said.
Najib, accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, arrived at the palace at 10am and was welcomed by Aquino before inspecting a presidential guard-of-honour.
Also present were Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed.