Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sabah uprising becoming serious: Tausug warriors waging guerilla war in Sabah

I was enraged yesterday when news broke out that our Foreign Affairs secretary Alberto del Rosariop agreed to tag Filipinos waging a guerilla war in Sabah as "terrorists". Tagging these people as "terrorists" is not a correct thing to do, because it just goes to show how this administration truly views this issue in an improper way.

Call it stupid or any other name, but the reason why this administration acts this way is simply its cultural or ethnic intolerance. This administration does not recognize the fact that this country is still being peopled by ethnic groups with their own philosophical worldview and sensitivities. Imagine calling them as terrorists and describing their cause as "hopeless" just reflects how insensitive and how poor the administration is as a student of history.

Fortunately, the DFA managed to correct this by issuing a question and answer sheet which served as their official press statement on the things which Del Rosario and his Malaysian counterpart discussed in their Kuala Lumpur meeting.Without this, many Filipinos would have protested this tagging as aother sign of this administration's deliverate mismanagement of this issue.

One misstep and this thing turned into a bloody regional flashpoint. Tausug warriors, most of them hardened Moro National Liberation Front members were able to evade the tight naval blockade the Malaysian and Philippine navies have set up, giving the impression that many more armed men have breached Malaysian territory.

This 3 week drama calls to mind both a diplomatic and political solution. Diplomatic in the sense that  Malaysia has no other option but to recognize the legitimacy of the Sultan of Sulu or risk turning this small matter into a full-blown war of attrition. Malaysia must recgnize the fact that a million people livingp there in Sabah are of Tausug or Filipino muslim descent and provoking them into an armed confrontation is foolish.

Worse, the concern of the Philippines government is on how to take care of the possible 800,000 so-called civilians caught in the crossfire and the possible repatriation of many more. This statement shows how misdirected the Philippine government is, insofar as accurate ground assessment is concerned. Obviously, this repatriation will never happen because this is precisely why fighting has broken out in Sabah in the first place. Filipinos are going there because the are trying to exercise dominin over Sabah, and these people ae determined to fight it out to the last man, according to the Sultan. In the eyes of the world and the Islamic Community, these people have the right to do so because the land is theirs by historic title.

The solution presents itself before the Philippine government: announce a resumption of diplomatic efforts to claim Sabah, and convince these people waging a guerilla war in Sabah to go back home without facing prosecution. Those who will stay or decide to stay must be given political asylum and described as political refugees. This is a win-win solution. The sympathizers of the sulan gets to stay where they are as political refugees and the government gets itself out of this bloody mess by regarding the people's trust while diffusing the tense situation.