Friday, June 19, 2015

“Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender”: Chairman Al Haj Murad

From the Website of MILF

“Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender”: Chairman Al Haj Murad

“Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender”: Chairman Al Haj Murad
Speaking at the symbolic decommissioning of 145 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 75 firearms at the former Maguindanao Provincial Capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on June 16, 2015, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said, “Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender, to a higher struggle, the start of the transformation of the MILF from a revolutionary organization to a political organization ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people”.

Chairman Murad appealed to Filipinos to appreciate rather than underestimate the significance of their action.

“We cannot thank President Aquino enough for his unwavering commitment in our partnership to build a truly democratic, peaceful and safe society in the Bangsamoro. For some people, Chairman Murad said, the event was only about statistics: 145 MILF and 75 firearms.

“But this is not about statistics. It is something deeply personal to us. As I look at the faces of each of our 145 brothers here in this small room, I see 145 stories of struggle, of pain, of hopelessness and even of death. Yet, I also see 145 stories of hope and faith that, indeed, peace is near and that all the sacrifices have been worth it,” Chairman Murad said.

“I see not only their stories, but my story as well and the stories of all the mujahideen that have given their lives, their intelligence, their talents to the struggle to protect the Bangsamoro people. What we have today are not the stories of only 145 fighters. What we have today are the stories of the whole Bangsamoro: oppression, tyranny, and – yes – liberation,” he added.

While there were veteran rebels among those who were decommissioned and registered to the government fold, the average age of the MILF fighters was about 46 years old. Some of them were younger while the weapons and firearms appeared to be in good shape.

Chairman Murad stressed the “road to this symbolic decommissioning” had not been easy.
“This decision is rooted in our firm commitment to comply with the principled agreements we have signed with the Philippine government. This decision was helped in part by the fact that we know that the President understands and feels what we have been going through, how it is to be under an oppressive regime, to thirst for justice and to have a firm resolve that it should never happen again,” he said.

Chairman Murad said they were looking at the transformation of the Bangsamoro from a state of conflict and underdevelopment to that of peace and prosperity that could expand to the rest of the country.
“This is also about the transformation of the Philippines to become more just and inclusive, and granting space to the Bangsamoro people to direct our lives as we wanted,” he noted.

Chairman Murad said the start of decommissioning even before the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be enacted is a sign of strength.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said she was optimistic that the symbolic decommissioning would have a positive effect on the BBL.

“Despite the uncertainties they would face, the MILF fighters chose to adhere to their agreement with the government under the peace process,” she said.

She revealed that the government allotted P2.4 billion in the 2015 budget to ensure continuous support for the MILF members who would start leading normal lives. She added they were looking at the possibility of establishing a normalization trust fund for the MILF.

“The weapons that are gathered here are to be surrendered to the International Decommissioning Body, headed by the representative of Turkey with members from Norway, Brunei and from the Philippine government and the MILF, and are to be stored in a designated place agreed on by the parties,” Chairman Murad said.

“This is an important point in the decommissioning process that we have to clarify, lest misinformation is again disseminated to create confusion and engender rumors adversarial to the peace process,” he said.

Chairman Murad sought for the passage of a BBL that would comply with both the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

On his part, MILF Chief Negotiator and Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chairman Mohagher Iqbal shared his vision of a Bangsamoro despite a crossroads after over 17 years of long and hard negotiations.