In the short month’s time since the unfolding crisis of Sabah gained attention across many borders, the Secretary General of the United Nations himself, Ban Ki-moon has added his voice and concern on the issue, calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the grant of access to humanitarian aid, the observance of human rights and the penultimate call for dialogue to resolve the ongoing conflict. The Secretary General knows full well that while the strength of state forces being brought to bear on the dissidents may quell the armed uprising, he and the UN are well aware that it is ultimately with dialogue, discussions and negotiation that lasting peace is truly crafted.
Underscored by this example of global statesmanship, we fellow neighbors of Sabah are again reminded of our own need for such paramount and effective mechanisms in our region, a capacity to guarantee the primacy for human rights, the value of a resident echelon of statesmen, negotiators and peacemakers, a shared consciousness keenly mindful of a regional rather than parochial perspective, and a common bias for resolution rather than accommodation. For much of these in this challenging situation, we now hopefully turn our eyes on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
For over forty years and 21 summits, the ASEAN “Community” has worked on strengthening its three (3) common pillars of security, economic and socio-cultural cohesion and unity. For over forty years the ASEAN “Way” has pursued a respectful, non-interfering and non-confrontational policy in addressing intra-state and cross-border disputes and conflicts among its members.
It has also been fifty years since the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia penned the “Manila Accord”, much of which called for a peaceful resolution to the issue of Sabah, and a precursor to the formation of the ASEAN itself. And ironically, it has been less than six months since all three principals now embroiled in Sabah, were all present in the Philippines’ Malacanang Palace for the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
Yet in this time of need for resolute leadership in our region, we today still find ASEAN’s voice markedly silent on Sabah. Technically, there is no mandate for the ASEAN to intervene, as Sabah is not born of a conflict between member states, but rather a conflict between a member state and a people from a fellow-member state. But this is exactly the emerging challenge for ASEAN, to recognize a higher calling beyond maintaining the status quo when humanitarian issues are at the fore, or when the marginalized plaints of the few come in conflict with the many, when maximum force takes over for maximum tolerance. This we feel is unacceptable.
Granted the maturation process the ASEAN has had since inception, we feel that it is time for the ASEAN to step up and lead in this time of crisis. We now therefore urgently call on the ASEAN to:
First, call for the immediate cessation of hostilities and guarantee the grant of humanitarian aid to all those affected and displaced by the conflict;
Second, to emplace the mechanisms and modalities to bring the parties concerned to the negotiating table for a just and lasting resolution of the issues at hand;
Third, to utilize the “Troika” and the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) allowed for by the ASEAN Charter to identify acceptable and capable mediators to guide the process to its conclusion;
Fourth, to harness the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AIHCR) as one of the essential mechanisms ensuring human rights have been observed and honored during the Sabah conflict;
Fifth, to activate the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) to generate the necessary information on the roots of this conflict and potential options for resolution;
Sixth, to expand the existing dispute settlement mechanisms within the ASEAN to also include the aspect of prevention to preclude existing and future disputes maturing into armed conflict;
Lastly, for the ASEAN to actively pursue a more decisive leadership role in addressing humanitarian issues as well as potential and existing conflicts wherever and whenever these occur among its member-states;
Guided by the Almighty, motivated by peace, and fueled by the humanity we all share, we submit these calls to the ASEAN and its leadership and all its member states, praying that by the acts we lead in and resolutely undertake now, the future finds us living in true expression of an ASEAN community.
Gus Miclat, Executive Director
IID Main Office (Davao City)
Phone: (+6382) 2992574 & 75
Richel de los Santos
IID-Manila Liaison Office
Phone: (+632) 9110205; (+632)4352900
Mobile Ph: (+63)927.644.6524