New group of Malaysian peacekeepers arrives

By John Unson
New group of Malaysian peacekeepers arrives

COTABATO CITY – A new contingent of Malaysian peacekeepers will replace tomorrow their outgoing compatriots after observing for a year the enforcement of the ceasefire accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Major Gen. Datuk Wira Zamrose Bin Mohd Zain of the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces leads the incoming group of foreign ceasefire observers for the International Monitoring Team (IMT) 11.

Zain and his men will replace the IMT 10, under Major Gen. Dato Sheik Mokhsin Bin Sheik Hassan.

Hassan and his men completed their year-long monitoring mission in flashpoint areas covered by the 1997 ceasefire agreement.

A large part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is covered by the IMT’s ceasefire monitoring mission.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, presiding chairman of the ARMM’s inter-agency, cross-section Regional Peace and Order Council, yesterday said he would extend the same support to the IMT 11.

“This peacekeeping mission plays a very big role in keeping peace in many areas inside the autonomous region. I and my constituent-officials in the ARMM government support the Mindanao peace process extensively,” he said.

The MILF has bastions in the ARMM’s component provinces Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and in the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Hataman said he looks forward to a fellowship meeting with the officials of the IMT 11 after they have settled in.  

Officials of the outgoing IMT 10 will turn over their headquarters in Cotabato City to the IMT’s 11th contingent in a symbolic transition exercise tomorrow.

The event will be witnessed by representatives from the government and MILF’s joint ceasefire committee and officials of various peace advocacy blocs.

The IMT is comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and civilian conflict resolution and rehabilitation experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

They have been helping the government and the MILF enforce the interim ceasefire since 2003. The Malaysian government has also been helping push the government-MILF peace efforts as third party facilitator.