World Bulletin / News Desk
The head of the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines says he is already looking beyond a landmark peace agreement, which will be signed with the government on March 27.
Hajj Murad Al-Ebrahim told the Anadolu Agency that Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels had not given up their aspirations of an entirely independent state for the Bangsomoro – the country’s ethnically indigenous Muslim population.
“Independence is a collective right to the Bangsomoro… But if we feel the government gives us enough power to govern ourselves, then it can be an alternative to the aspiration of the Bangsomoro,” he said at Camp Darapanan - MILF’s headquarters near Cotabato city, in the country’s south.
Stressing that the agreement is not perfect, Hajj Murad said that even though it doesn’t grant independence to the Bangsomoro it does allow them to govern themselves. He warned, however, that this might not be the end of the struggle.
“If this agreement is not implemented properly… then the (end) decision will be up to the people.”
Responding to accusations from rebel groups who have refused to go along with the agreement that the deal does not reflect the needs of the Bangsomoro, Hajj Murad said they had tried to analyze all the failures of previous negotiations before entering the process.
“One concrete example of the positive changes in the latest agreement that satisfy us is the present set up of a ministerial form of a government. And if there is a need to change… we can recommend an amendment to the constitution,” he said.
Muslims in the southern Philippines will host a traditional "kanduli" thanksgiving banquet to welcome Thursday's formal signing of a peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Governor Mujiv Hataman told the Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that the people were very happy and looking forward to tomorrow's activity.
Hataman is the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Located in the Mindanao island group in the country’s south, it is composed of five predominantly Muslim provinces: Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Since the 1970s, the MILF and several other armed groups have supported a rebellion aimed at achieving independence for the country’s prominently Muslim south, determined to earn what they term "a better life" for the predominantly Catholic country's Muslim population.
The peace agreement represents the culmination of diplomatic efforts aimed at ending conflict in Mindanao. It aims to bring to a close an insurgency that began in the 1970s and has killed more than 150,000 people, mostly civilians. The violence has also left large parts of the country’s fertile southern region mired in poverty.
Hataman has repeatedly pronounced readiness to step aside to make way for provisions of the agreement, which call for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Government to replace the 25-year old ARMM as the new autonomous political entity.
Hajj Murad also said his people needed more support from the international community in order to realize the agreement.
“We appeal to our brothers and sisters from Turkey to continue their support and sympathy for the Bangsomoro. We also appeal to the Turkish government to continue to extend more support to the peace agreement."
He added that he was also impressed with the way the present Turkish government was running the country.
“We look to Turkey to inspire us and give us guidelines on how to run our own government,” he said.Last Mod: 26 Mart 2014, 14:30