‘Disarmament to be most difficult part of Bangsamoro peace process’
COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The British Ambassador to the Philippines has advised peacemakers in Mindanao to prepare for the most difficult part of the peace process implementation, which would be the disarming of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) armed force.
Ambassador Asif Anwar Ahmad told reporters here Friday that based on his country’s own experience, disarmament had the longest period in Britain’s peace dealings for the settlement of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
“The DDR (disarmament, decommissioning and reintegration) took us 25 years, at least; but it depends on one’s reckoning; some say (it had been) since the 1920s,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said he saw “progressive development” in the peace process with the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law already filed in Congress.
But he said even the process of disarmament would be done in three layers— ceremonial turnover of firearms before the decommissioning of the MILF as a separatist organization, and the reintegration (DDR) of its members during their transformation into officials, government workers and members of the Bangsamoro Security Force (regional police).
Ahmad said “there are many parallels” between his country’s own experience of resolving the Northern Ireland conflict and the Philippines peace settlement formula in the formation of the Bangsamoro government in Muslim Mindanao.
Asked what piece of advice he could give if sought, Ahmad said “both parties should adhere to sincerity, trust and confidence and verification (of facts)” in going through the DDR process.
Once decommissioned, the MILF will evolve into a political party and organizing one is a step toward decommissioning.
The ambassador said just as the BBL would require the MILF to organize a political party, the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland also provided for a multi-party pact by most of Northern Ireland’s political parties.
As a former peace ambassador to the UN Security Council, Ahmad said the BBL would be a good formula to enhance “balance of powers in a political setting where there is both extreme devolution of powers and extreme centralization of powers in the local government and in the national government.”
He said the Good Friday Agreement signed in Belfast on April 10, 1998, also created peace mechanisms, including linking institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Coordinative governance as provided in the draft BBL may require putting in place linking institutions between the Bangsamoro and the central government granting it autonomous powers.
The British ambassador had been with the UN Security Council, which brought him to various engagements on peace and security commitments throughout the world.
“There is no part of the world that we think is not important. Our role here is to make sure that tensions don’t arise, and that you have good defense capability. This is important (in) helping people when needed. You need transport aircraft and amphibians that can rapidly help people move from one place to another,” he explained.
Accompanied by Thomas Phipps, the British Embassy’s Second Secretary for Political and Security, Ahmad said he was slated to meet with MILF and government leaders, including MILF Chair Murad Ebrahim, a security courtesy with the local military command under the 6th Infantry Division commander, Brigadier-General Edmundo Pangilinan, and a brief dialogue with few members of the local media.
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