New team of Malaysian ceasefire observers arrives in Mindanao
DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao, Philippines—A new 19-man Malaysian contingent has arrived in Mindanao against the backdrop of the Sabah crisis, leading officials on both sides to observe that current events in the east Malaysian estate have failed to make a dent on Philippine-Malaysian relations.
The new Malaysian contingent to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) is led by First Admiral Abdul Rahman Abdul Ayob and replaces the previous one led by Major General Abdul Rahim Yusuf. Its advance party arrived last Saturday and the rest of the contingent on Monday.
During the send-off ceremony for Yusuf’s team, Brigadier General Cesar Sedillo Jr., deputy commander of the military’s 6th Infantry Division based here, thanked Malaysia for continuing to help monitor the ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front despite the Sabah crisis.
Sedillo said the role of the IMT was vital in ensuring peace in Mindanao, adding that since last year, no skirmishes have occurred between soldiers and MILF guerrillas.
Major General Fadzil Mokhtar, head of the Malaysian advance party, was quoted by a local TV station as saying the Sabah crisis was immaterial to Malaysia’s role in the peace process between the Philippine government and the rebels.
“We might have arrived in wrong timing,” he was quoted as saying, adding, “this new tour of duty will not be tarnished in relation to the Sabah issue.”
“Our mission is to monitor the ceasefire and nothing else,” he said.
Mokhtar said Malaysian Armed Forces Chief General Zulkifeli Zin told them to “remain neutral, impartial and professional” in carrying out their duties as peace monitors in Mindanao and “not to be complacent and get involved in any indiscipline.”
The Malaysian IMT monitors will be deployed in various conflict areas in Mindanao until March 2014.
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