On the unfolding tragedy now threatening parts of Sabah, we urgently call upon President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia, the Sultanate of Sulu and its heirs led by Jamalil Kiram III, together with any and all individuals, organizations and networks who disavow violence and conflict, and who support dialogue as their primary mechanism for peace, to now unite and work towards bringing all the involved parties together in seeking a peaceful resolution to the issues at hand.
We recognize each of the three (3) principals now involved and their commitment to peace in recent history. We commend Malaysia and it’s facilitative role in bringing peace to much of Mindanao through years of negotiations. We acknowledge President Aquino and his administration’s efforts in calling for dialogue and peace-building in various conflict-affected regions of the Philippines. And we laud the long history of the Sultanate of Sulu in responsibly leading its proud and unconquered people into the present.
While we may feel disappointment that peace has not spread fast enough into the hearts of our fellowmen in the region, we feel that the chance to remedy the Sabah situation is still at hand, granted we act quickly, calmly and with sobriety, remaining steadfast in our commitment to dialogue, negotiations and ultimately peace. The chilling effect on the long hoped-for peace in the region that this event may have spawned should not be allowed to spread, for it impacts on the future of large populations in the region, be they involved in this dispute or not. The threat and deprivation forced upon the lives and futures of the innocent brought on by conflict, particularly those impacting on women and children, remains unacceptable to us in any of the actions and discussions done, or yet to follow.
The convergence of conditions that engendered this event shows us all that a number of underlying issues may have remained long simmering, out of sight to most of us, and now needs to be addressed sensibly and soon, be it before the public eye or in stages respectful of the sensibilities of all involved. Again, this underscores our advocacy for developing regular venues of dialogue to thresh such matters out.
We also should not let ourselves be swayed by the apparent machinations and apathy of those who selfishly see no benefit for themselves by staying on the path of peace the majority of us have chosen. Yet as we confront this possibility, we must also find as totally unacceptable any “collateral damage” for our innocent brothers and sisters suffering long and oftentimes in silence, whenever we’ve allowed guns to speak loudest.
We feel that that the time for posturing, threats and armed action, no matter how righteous and particularly at the cost of innocent lives, remains unacceptable. That letting stoked emotions roiling pell-mell into violence, at the cost of reason and value for lives, has no place in a future built on crafting peace for ourselves and generations to follow.
Let us remind all involved that history is both perceived by looking at what we’ve done in our past, as well as how we’ve measured up to our future. This future now before us calls us to be globally engaged, to be responsible for one another, to foster an inclusivity that calls upon us all to look at the humanity that unites us, not the differences that divide.
We therefore call on the key actors, from the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia, the Sultanate of Sulu and its heirs, engaged by other stakeholders along with all of us who value peace above all, to sign on in calling for an immediate end to the violence and come together in a dialogue for peace on the issues pertaining to Sabah.
The time for this is now and begins with us. Let us resolve the Sabah issue peacefully, not through arms but through dialogue. The cycle of violence in resolving conflict must end, and the opportune time for it in Sabah is NOW!
Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW)
Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia (SEA-GPPAC)
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
Derepa te Erumanen ne Menuvu (DEM)