PETALING JAYA: The founder and leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Nur Misuari, has accused certain quarters friendly with Malaysia of attempting to drive a wedge in the peace process between Muslim separatists and the Philippine government in which he is involved.
“The problem here is that some people play dirty. They know that it’s just a matter of time and we can probably conclude our talks with the government,” he was quoted as saying by the Arab News web portal today.
The former governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao however maintained an optimistic stance towards the negotiations undertaken by the current government led by president Rodrigo Duterte.
He praised Duterte, who assumed power in June last year, for being more effective in negotiating with the separatists than the preceding administrations in Manila which he claimed were “conspiring with Malaysia”.
“The president, being from Mindanao, I think he understands us much better than the previous ones,” he was quoted as saying.
“The other (administrations), they were just pulling our legs, conspiring with Malaysia… With this president, probably, it is a different thing,” he added.
He also cautioned that if the negotiations fail, the logical consequence would be war.
Misuari, who was governor from 1996 to 2001, was enlisted by Duterte to participate in the peace process.
He said he had informed Duterte that MNLF would help in dealing with Maute miltants in southern Philippines who have given their allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist network.
In late May, the Maute rebel army began deadly attacks on Marawi City in Mindanao, in a campaign also actively participated by IS fighters from other countries.
“I told the president… there’s no need to employ tanks, bombers, cannons, mortars. We will deal with it hand-to-hand,” Misuari was quoted as saying.
He reportedly added that he wanted to prevent the destruction of Marawi’s infrastructure.
In May this year, Misuari was charged with three counts of corruption by the Philippine courts in relation to the purchase of materials for three education projects when he was Mindanao governor.
He alleged that certain “wayward elements” who did not want the peace talks to succeed had influenced the action taken against him.
He claimed to have been informed that the parties “who are serving as puppets of the former Philippine colonial government (referring to the previous administration) and who also have links with Malaysia, spoke to some people in the office of the (current) president.”
He was also quoted as saying that the alleged purchase took place after he was forced to end his governor’s term and make an escape to Sabah in 2001 following accusations that he was staging a rebellion against the Philippine government.
The Malaysian government led by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had at that time rejected his request for asylum.
In November last year, Nur Misuari had alleged that Malaysian leaders were using the Moro people in kidnap-for-ransom activities around Mindanao.
He claimed that the abduction of 21 tourists and resort workers as hostages on Pulau Sipadan, Sabah, in 2000, was the work of Malaysia which used Moros.