Saturday, July 31, 2010
Solution to conflict between 2 MNLF-MILF
faction commanders in SK remains elusive
A definitive solution to the armed conflict between Datu Randy Karon, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces in Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat, and Jing Caludtiag, also commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF’s) 104th Base Command, remains elusive.
Based on media reports, despite attempts from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) traditional leaders and local government officials and the latest from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) to resolve the conflicthe two armed feuding groups continue their dispute in the area.
The armed conflict which started sometime in March of 2009 has already claimed several lives and displaced thousands of civilians who fled their homes to safer grounds in the towns of Datu Blah Sinsuat (DBS), Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, and its adjacent towns in Maguindanao.
The DWSD-ARMM regional office reported that the displaced families in the Karon-Caludtiag conflict are temporarily housed in nearby villages and village halls while some of the evacuees are taking refuge at the houses of their relatives' houses in neighboring villages.
A local official in Lebak told this reporter that eight barangays, including Sadam, Miti, Senapak, Laguitan in Datu Blah Sinsuat in Maguindanao as well as Tran, Calamansig, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat have been affected with an estimated of 15,000 to 17,000 individuals.
The official said the sector most affected by the conflict is the business and the education sector. “I refer to the business community of Lebak and Calamansig. This situation has greatly affected the people in the community, putting them in high alert, and fear that this trouble will escalate to its fullest. Yes (on education)…you just imagine how many people have been displaced from the various barangays from DBS (Datu Blah Sinsuat) and Lebak.”
Karon, who was former regional secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) when MNLF chairman Nur Misuari was ARMM governor from 1996 to 2001, is reportedly battling against Caludtiag over control of strategic patches of lands along the coasts connecting the towns of Datu Blah and Lebak in Sultan Kudarat.
The two contending factions fought several times last year, causing the dislocation of thousands of villagers that rely mainly on fishing and farming of short-term crops such as corn, rice and bananas, as their source of income.
In an interview at his lair called "Camp Watamama-II" in Lebak, Commander Karon said that the problem started after the collapse of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"This group, the MILF, it's very clear. It's not just a suspect. This Caludtiag family," the MNLF commander said, blaming the MILF faction command as the one who started the conflict.
But MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar refuted this, saying that the conflict is a misunderstanding between two relatives because Karon and Caludtiag are relatives.
"I can’t give details the misunderstanding between the two of them because it’s a long story but the fight between them is not an organizational conflict between the MILF and the MNLF. It is a family. But sometime it is misunderstood. Sometime people are saying that the fight is between the MILF and the MNLF but that is not correct."
Jaafar said the MILF is not siding Caludtiag, although he is an MILF commander. Admitting that Caludtiag is being reinforced by hi MILF relatives, but the decision of his relatives who are identified with the MILF in helping him is family matter and is not sanction by the MILF as an organization.
Meanwhile, evacuees who have been affected by the armed conflict between Commander Karon and Commander Caludtiag in the coastal sitio of Lebak are longing for an end to the feud in their village.
An evacuee identified as a certain Basio, 60, who has four children said that his house and corn farm were totally damaged when the armed fighting between the two feuding groups erupted in their barangay recently.
"The conflict really affected our lives. We don't have livelihood here and we are afraid to return to our home," he said.
A woman evacuee, who is suffering from tuberculosis, said they have practically no medicine and the conditions in the area where they temporarily stay for months now are completely unsanitary.
"We don't have any medical assistance here and our home and farm were destroyed. We hope they will already settle their differences and stop the fighting," the woman added
Women, children and the elderly in Lebak, some with weeping sores on their feet, make up the majority of the refugees. Many were asking for fishing net from concerned local government agencies for their livelihood.
"When this conflict is over, I must return to my house because it is there where we born," said a teenager whose one leg was hit by a crossfire during the armed fighting between the men of the two moro feuding groups.
The coastal village of Lebak and its adjacent coastal areas are left with destroyed shanty houses and just a tiny fraction of fishermen as residents move away from the area. Now, only armed men remain in the camp of MNLF or peace zone with a Philippine flag hoisted near seashore.
Asked if they still want to settle the conflict, Commander Karon said:: "Of course, I want to have our people, our civilian, our community healthy and stable because after all that's the reason why we agreed to the peace offered by the government."
Karon said the truth of the matter he is just waiting the decision of the MILF for this problem and that he already yielded the problem to the MNLF chairman.
"I told him (MNLF chairman) to decide for us. While it's true that there is an offer of the MNLF to settle this problem but I see some biases on their decision because they only talked the local issue between our family and and then forget that big issue that involves many people who died here," he stressed.
He asked: "How would you agree with that kind of proposition disregarding that big issues surrounding this problem?"
The MNLF commander explained that the problem could had not been reached this extent had it not the support of the MILF to the other side that instead of making the effort to resolve the problem, they send more their forces to support this group (Caludtiag).
"So that's the cause why there is no resolution that had taken place. After all those initiatives from people and different people from all walks of life. Now comes the intervention of the International Monitoring Team (IMT). I don't know what's going to happen next."
"Up to now I am still awaiting for whatever peaceful resolution to the problem because you know it's my family that suffers the consequence of this problem. It's my relatives and my people from this place. It's not the people coming from the different areas. It's not them that suffer the consequence of this trouble. It's our relatives, our family and friends and all the people in this place."
Also asked to comment on the unity covenant between by the MNLF and the MILF signed by Prof. Nur Misuari and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, he said they are not privy to it and they don't recognize that agreement.
This agreement could probably be a personal agreement between them (Misuari and Murad), otherwise they should have consulted us before signing with any party...there was no consultation ever made whatsoever between us and Nur Misuari.
"This is people's organization that needs proper consultation on matters related to the shaping of the destiny of the organization and the people itself."
Speaking in behalf of Commander Caludtiag, MILF vice chairman Jaafar said the International Monitoring Team (IMT) together with the ceasefire committees of MILF and GRP CCCH is right now handling the problem.
"The purpose is to reconcile the two groups. Until now, they are still in the process of trying to resolve the problem, the issue. I don’t know whether they will succeed or they will fail, but we can only pray that the effort of the IMT will succeed because as of now, there are civilians in the area in Tran and neighboring areas directly affected by the troubles. They were forced to abandon their homes for fear that they might be caught in the crossfire, and so decided to stay in safer areas temporarily."
Jaafar said that what is happening between Karon and Caludtiag is not good because he believe the Bangsamoro people must remain united in facing their problems. Jaafar also believes that at this point in time there is no room for disunity and infighting between and among Bangsamoro.
"I believe that Bangsamoro leaders at this point in time must be able to arise above the 'box' (MNLF box, tribal box, MILF box)…what I mean here the Bangsamoro leaders must think as one people as Bangsamoro people, not as tribal leaders, not as Tausug leaders, not as Maguindanao leaders, Maranao leaders but as one…I think there is no time in a Bangsamoro people such as now that the Bangsamoro must act as one people, united," he concluded. HG