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Indonesia moving to join IMT on Mindanao peace efforts

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The Indonesian government has began to “process its participation” for the sending of its peacekeeping troops to southern Philippines to help oversee the ceasefire between the Philippine government and Moro rebels.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia has sent a “note verbale” to the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta on March 31.

“The Ministry seeks the kind assistance of the (Philippine) Embassy to provide information regarding the steps required for Indonesia to join IMT,” stated the diplomatic note.

Indonesia’s coming into International Monitoring Team (IMT), which is led by Malaysian troops, with other member countries composed of Libya, Brunei, Japan, Norway, and European Union, will give a big boost in stabilizing peaceful condition in Mindanao, said Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Q. Deles.

She said the Philippine government asked the government of Indonesia to assume a role in the IMT during the state visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Jakarta last month.

Indonesia is not new in helping the southern peace process. Its intervention started when Indonesia, which chairs the Organization of Islamic Conference - Peace Committee for Southern Philippines, brokered the peace negotiation and facilitate the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996.

Deles said Indonesia will join IMT to "reciprocate the Philippine peacekeeping assistance in Aceh."

The Philippines, together with European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, has been monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement set out in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement on August 15, 2005 in Helsinki, Finland.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has welcomed the entry of Indonesia in the IMT.

“We expect their official contact very soon,” said Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, said, adding that “for the MILF, Indonesia is already considered member of the IMT.”

He said the invitation of Indonesia in joining the fray came since 2009, when the peace panels of the Philippine government and the MILF invited Norway, the European Union and Qatar.

The IMT is tasked to monitor the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation, humanitarian, and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF.

In addition, the International Contact Group is composed of the United Kingdom, Japan, Turkey, and recently, Saudi Arabia, and non-state members as follows: The Asia Foundation, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Muhammadiyah, and Conciliation Resources.

The new IMT head of mission is Major Gen. Dato Mahdi bin Yusof of the Malaysian Armed Forces.  He replaced Major Gen.  Datuk Baharom bin Hamzah as head of the IMT-5, whose mandate ended on February 28.

The Philippine government and the MILF have been engaged in peace negotiation since 1997 to fully resolve the issue of Moros' self-determination. (Darwin Wally T. Wee/PR- Peace Advocates Zamboanga)




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