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The Mindanao unrest and Sabah illegals

Analysts say with fresh armed clashes in Mindanao,
it is unlikely Malaysia would deport Filipinos
 illegal immigrants back to the areas.
By Luke Rintod of FMT
One of the repercussions of the fresh unrest in the southern Philippines would be the derailing of Malaysia’s effort to mount a sweeping operation to nab illegal immigrants in Sabah as part of its nationwide exercise.

The operation in Sabah will not be easy. Sabah has a huge population of Filipino and Indonesian immigrants hiding under various clever masquerades.

The locals in Sabah, especially the Kadazandusun and Chinese, who have been enraged for too long over this perennial issue, handed Barisan Nasional half a dozen defeats in the two communities’ areas in the recent general election.
It was their way of expressing rage at the government’s now well known manipulation of the socio-political demographics in the state.

The latest clash in southern Philippines has thrown up another probability – that of a sabotage.

Many Suluks in Sabah originated or had at one time or another resided in Basilan.

In the latest clashes the main Moro rebel grouping in southern Philippines, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had been holding about 100 people hostage in clashes with Philippines army that had left at least 50 people dead.

It is reported that as many as 60,000 people have fled their homes around several villages near Zamboanga City and nearby Basilan

While curfew is in place in those places now, violence is not one that is easy to control especially without the agreement of charismatic Nur Misuari, the MNLF supremo who was once governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Analysts said with fresh armed clashes in Mindanao, it is unlikely Malaysia would deport Filipinos illegal immigrants back to the areas.

Calculative Misuari

They said Malaysia’s holding capacity of illegal immigrants is also saturating and there would be no way any big operations against them in Sabah would succeed, without deporting them from the state.

Now many locals in Sabah are also wondering if the timing of the fresh unrest in Zamboanga and Basilan has anything to do with sabotaging Malaysia’s latest effort to nab illegal immigrants in Sabah which many claimed to number anything between 800,000 to 1.5 million people.

But Malaysia on its part appeared to have not yielded to the pressure so far, and indications are that big operation to nab illegal immigrants in the country is on.

The calculative Misuari however has never been an admirer of Malaysia’s latest engagement with MNLF’s splinter group, MILF or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He has often said that the entry of Malaysia in the peace negotiations with the MILF has sabotaged the final implementation of the 1996 MNLF peace agreement with Manila.

The MNLF has entered into three agreements with Manila since the time of late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1976, under President Corazon Aquino in 1986 to 1987, and President Fidel Ramos in 1996. The agreements resulted in the enactment of the Republic Act 1954, establishing the ARMM.

Now according to Misuari, any agreement with MILF is a violation of the series of agreements with the mainstream Muslim rebels (MNLF) that was brokered by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

He had insisted that the MNLF is the only group recognized by OIC, representing not only the 11 million Muslims in Mindanao but also the indigenous communities and Christians in the area.

The elusive Misuari blasted Malaysia for interfering in the Philippines’ internal affairs when it brokered the peace talks with the MILF.

He made that claim in October 2012 and he still believes Malaysia’s role with MILF was tantamount to a sabotage of the final implementation of the 1996 MNLF peace agreement.

According to Misuari, Malaysia fears that if the final agreement with MNLF is implemented, it would result in the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak to the Bangsamoro territory, so it intervened in the internal affairs of the country.

Rewriting history?

MNLF’s Islamic Command Council (ICC) chairman, Habib Mujahab Hashim, in the past had said the framework agreement with the MILF was tantamount to the total abrogation of the peace accord they have with the government.

“But what about the final agreement (between) the MNLF and the (government)? They should have first declared this abrogated and abrogate it officially before entering into another agreement.

“For us, this is a double talk, a betrayal on the part of the government on the MNLF,” Hashim had said.

“Now, they would like to erase that from the face of history,” Hashim said.

Hashim said MNLF would exhaust all remedies by bringing the issue before the OIC, citing the 1996 peace accord was penned in the form of a tripartite and international agreement.

Under the tripartite form of agreement pursuant to international law and international practice, one party cannot abrogate such agreement without the consent of another party, according to Hashim, adding that the MNLF was not consulted on the current agreement with the MILF.

With Misuari last month already declaring an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines, things would not ease very soon there.

The Malaysian government would certainly be held to ransom by the ongoing armed clashes and violence in its neighbour, the main source of illegal immigrants in Sabah.

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