The Lahad Datu Incident is an opportunity for many prickly issues that have not been resolved by the Phillipines for a long time, to be addressed together in a package. Former the Philippines Minister in charge of BIMP EAGA Jess Dureza wrote:
SABAH FALLOUT ON MILF PEACE TALKS
By Jess G. Dureza
I was in Zamboanga City over the weekend to attend the Jaycee Senate Zamboanga Chapter Induction there. I was glad I took the trip. When Mayor Celso Lobregat said: “Welcome back, Jess” in his speech to the JCI Senators, I suddenly realized I had not visited Zamboanga for sometime. I remember Zamboanga City was always in my travel schedule in my regular visits to the island provinces of Sulu, Basilan and TawiTawi.
I took the opportunity of meeting old friends in the media and other contacts who could help me get more validated information on what is happening in Sabah and help me wade through the flurry of events that have been in the headlines for weeks now.
Here are a few items or thoughts I have picked up along the way. Aside from the deaths and the violence suffered by Filipinos there, one of major casualties of the Sabah incident is the MILF peace negotiations. Evidently, events have overtaken the MILF peace talks. Even MILF’s claim for a Bangsamoro ancestral domain and right to self determination, without factoring in the Sabah claim, will not fly anymore. Malaysian participation as a neutral “facilitator” is now blown to pieces due to their violent operations against the Filipino Muslims in Lahad Datu. With the arrival of hundreds of Filipinos fleeing Sabah, more alleged atrocities committed against Filipinos are starting to surface.
Although everyone is now agog over where this incident will eventually lead to, I think there is an urgent need now for government, the MILF and the rest of the stakeholders to sit down and find some ways to overcome the roadblocks that suddenly appeared on the road to peace.
I strongly urge that any solution that government will try to craft on the Sabah claim must necessarily take into account the peace process. I see a positive opportunity here using the Sabah issue as TRIGGER TO UNITE ALL. Everything must converge. If we succeed in getting all sectors and factions to converge, it will be a paradigm shift and it may really bring about a comprehensive formula for all Bangsamoro.
Difficult it may be but there is no other course now but for ONE ROAD MAP for all to cover the MILF, MNLF, the sultanates, thetribes, and the traditional political sector. (This was the old road map, by the way, that got detoured somehow.)
The Sabah claim I am sure will take long to settle but we need not wait for that. In fact, if we all unite, we can all do a “home-run” and quicken the pace of the negotiations.
But here are a few imperatives for this formula.
First and foremost, both the MILF and the MNLF must NOT INSIST that they alone, separately, have the “exclusive franchise” to represent the whole of the Bangsamoro. Secondly, the functioning and existing political leaders must also be key players. Thirdly, Malaysia will have to exercise some restraint in what it is doing now in Sabah. This way, it can continue and remain as “facilitator” after agreeing to leave the Sabah issue to be resolved by a third party body or interlocutor. Fourth, President Aquino must also calibrate his statements and actions based on the imperatives of the situation. Fifth, the accruing benefits to the Sultanate, if any, must be inclusive. Meaning, although the Kirams are the “lead claimants”, all the many heirs (9 families as of the latest count) including the “subjects” or the so-called “ra’yat” or non-blood or non- royal followers must all be beneficiaries. Finally, let’s not tinker with the sovereignty issue. It will lead us nowhere.
I am sure there are other imperatives out there that we can all contribute to the formulation of the road map to sustainable peace.
I can’t help but be an optimist and dreamer. I always look for a silver lining in the gathering dark clouds.
The Federal Government too should capitalize on this opportunity and resolve the Sabah issue, once and for all. The security issue in Sabah is an extension of prolonged socio-economic issues brought upon from the combination of inherent historical problems and influx of economic immigrants from neighbouring countries. Some of these issues have been addressed but not comprehensively.
There should be a comprehensive plan to address all the issues pertaining to immigrants for the whole state, instead of specifically for the Special Security Areas (SSA) as per what Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak announced when he visited Lahad Datu last week.
This include the restructuring of settlements and colonies inhibited by immigrants or mixture of immigrants, permanent residents and citizens. Places like Gaya Island, which is across from Kota Kinabalu should also be restructured. Kota Kinabalu isn’t an area included in East Sabah Security Command (ESSC), a new name for the SSA as announced by Chief Minister Dato’ Musa Aman.
Since these immigrants are in the state mainly for economic reasons and they are a significant element in the workforce for most of Sabah’s major economic activity such as agriculture, plantation and fishery, then it is pertinent that the socio-economic factor of their community is being planned comprehensively. This include schools for their children.
The community and social economic development structuring program to be rolled out could also be part of Prime Minister Najib’s Economic Transformation Plan (ETP) for Sabah. Special provisions for the New Economic Policy could also be invoke for the Bumiputera in affected areas after the comprehensive socio-economic restructuring plan is ready for Sabah.
New economic development areas (or in some ‘Level Four Boys’ lingo; corridor) suitable for East Sabah could be planned. Many of the districts in these areas have huge plantation, fishery and tourism potential, with opportunities of spin off industries. These economic activities definitely require a huge workforce. It would be a magnet for more economic immigrants.
Of course, proper community development programs would tag along. This include utilities (which include communication), affordable housing projects, education, healthcare and programs for Islamic development.
Since Former Minister Dureza is suggesting that one road map for all on their side, the Federal Government should take lead role on the joint venture between Federal Government and Sabah State Government with ‘1Malaysia Road Map for Sabah‘. This Sabah special comprehensive security-socio-economic development plan will complement the future of the peace plan that Putrajaya brokered between Manila and MILF last October and any thereafter Manila roll out plan for the Mindanao Muslims.
This magic bullet would be the master plan for the economic development plan which is backed tightly by a comprehensive security and immigration program for Sabah. On top of that, the ETP for Sabah would be the catalyst to propel Sabah forward.
This is one opportunity to bite the magic bullet.