By Carolyn O’Arguillas
DAVAO CITY – “Cooler heads” must prevail to stop the bloodshed in Sabah from escalating, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misauri said as he urged the Malaysian Prime Minister, whom he claims to be a friend, to “desist from sending more forces… tone down your voice”, and the Sultan of Sulu “not to aggravate the situation.”
“I don’t like trouble with the (Philippine) government. I don’t like trouble with Malaysia. I want peace,” Misuari told Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting from 11:35 p.m. Saturday to 12:05 a.m. Sunday at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.
Misuari is in the city to attend a conference of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development.
“It would be to the best interest of everybody if you can stop the uprising there and just talk about.. pag-usapan na lang natin…” (let’s talk). Duterte told Misuari whom he greeted a “happy birthday” at the end of the 30-minute meeting. Misuari was born on March 3, 1939.
“We must talk in a brotherly way. I can mediate between them,” he said, adding, “anyway, Sabah and Sarawak belong to me and my clan. It does not belong to the Sultanate. Because this is the property of my great, great, grandfather.”
Misuari told Duterte that he heard Malacanang “is toying with the idea of asking me (to help) I don’t know how true.”
“Anytime, I am ready,” he said. He said the governor of Tawi-tawi, Sadikul Sahali “pleaded with me to join their entourage to Kuala Lumpur and Sabah they want me to contact these young people. Ngayon nag-gyera na…” (Now the war has begun).
Duterte replied: “If you think that you have to connect to them (Malacanang), call me anytime.”
Misuari’s companions clapped as he shook Duterte’s hand and said, “I don’t like trouble with the Philippine government. I don’t like trouble with Malaysia. I want peace.”
It is not certain if Najib would heed Misuari’s call. In a rally here on October 21 last year, Misuari referred to Najib as one of three “conspirators,” along with President Benigno Simeon Aquino and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who “betrayed the Bangsamoro cause” with the signing a week earlier of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
“We hope that the entire world will ask these three conspirators to account for these misdeeds or wrongdoing,” he said then.
Meeting with Kiram
The 74-year old founding leader of the MNLF who leads one of many factions of the MNLF now, said he met with Sultan Jamalul Kiram III before coming to Davao, apparently before Friday’s bloodshed in Lahad Datu.
He denied he was behind the group of the Sultan’s brother, Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.
He recalled that the Sultan attended his rally here on October 21 and that the latter expressed support for “the decision of MNLF chairman to recover the state of Sabah from the hands of Malaysian colonialism.”
“Ngayon they were so impatient. The younger brother (said), ito na, nag-lead ng ano don. So impatient. He asked his brother ‘give me now permission I will start.’”
Misuari, then Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was arrested in November 2001 (extradited by the Malaysian Government) for alleged illegal entry. In the Philippines, he was then accused of allegedly leading a rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City.
Since his release from detention in 2008, Misuari had repeatedly called for a “final solution” to the claim over “Sabah and the rest of North Borneo.”
In the rally on October 21, he again called on the audience to “join me to continue our efforts to reclaim Sabah and the rest of North Borneo.” There was no reaction from the crowd.
“Surrender now, without conditions”
At least 15 persons were killed, 12 of them from Kiram’s group, two Malaysian policemen and the owner of the house where Kiram stayed, when the standoff in Lahad Datu ended on Friday morning.
In a statement on Saturday, President Benigno S. Aquino President called on Kiram’s group who are still in Sabah to “surrender now, without conditions.”
“To our citizens in Lahad Datu, from the very start our objective has been to avoid the loss of lives and the shedding of blood. However, you did not join us in this objective. Because of the path you have taken, what we have been trying to avoid has come to pass,” he said.
“If you have grievances, the path you chose was wrong. The just, and indeed, the only correct thing for you to do is to surrender,” he said.
“To those who have influence and the capacity to reason with those in Lahad Datu, I ask you to convey this message: surrender now, without conditions.”
Asked how he would persuade the Sultan “not to aggravate the situation” in Sabah, Misuari replied, “I will talk to Sultan, I will try to call him.”
“Foolhardy, Big gamble”
Misuari denied allegations he financed or inspired the group but acknowledged there were MNLF members who joined, “without my knowledge.” He said he had “many nephews” there who were “sweet-talked” into joining.
“That is true but I have nothing to do with their going there. I don’t like to make trouble. Two hundred armas (firearms) or 100? What can you do against the Armed Forces of. (Malaysia). It’s a big gamble on their (Kirams’) part and it’s not trademark ni Misuari maggawa ng ganyang kalokohan (to do that foolishness……. I assure you wala talaga akong kinalaman dyan,” he said.
Read more: here.