MNLF warns of ‘long war’ with MalaysiaMANILA, Philippines - The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) yesterday warned of a “long, protracted war” against Malaysia if the country will not heed the call of the United Nations for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing Sabah crisis.
MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla told The STAR that the royal army of the sultanate of Sulu and thousands of Tausugs in Sabah are now waging a guerrilla war against the Malaysian forces over their claim to the disputed territory, and “if Malaysia will not sit on the negotiating table and continue its barbaric all-out war, it will be facing a long protracted war against the Tausug people in Sabah.”
Fontanilla also said the MNLF would elevate the cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by Malaysian forces against Filipino Muslims in Sabah to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) next week.
He said the MNLF central committee is drafting the petition, and that the elevation of the Sabah conflict to the OIC is MNLF’s top priority because the group has a permanent observer status representing Filipino Muslims in the council.
Fontanilla also condemned the alleged support of President Aquino for the Malaysian government in quashing Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his royal army, who are now the subject of a massive military operation in Sabah.
“Instead of working for Malaysia, the President should have remained neutral and pursued the promotion and protection of rights of the Filipinos in Sabah in accordance with International laws,” Fontanilla said.
Phl, Malaysia ties strongMeanwhile, United States-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that the relations between the Philippines and Malaysia would remain strong despite the Sabah crisis.
But CSIS also noted that the Sabah conflict is taking its toll on people-to-people relations between the two Southeast Asian countries due to rising nationalist sentiments.
“Malaysia and Philippines are close partners on economic and security issues and the relationship between the two governments appears largely unaffected by the conflict,” said Gregory Polling of CSIS.
But the fighting between the sultanate’s forces and Malaysian security forces is hurting people-to-people relations between Filipinos and Malaysians, as the crisis continues to spawn nationalistic sentiments on both sides towards the issue.
Polling also said both the Filipino and Malaysian publics have been critical of their government’s handling of the conflict and disapprove of the escalating violence.
“Many groups in the Philippines sympathize with Sultan Kiram’s cause and believe that he has been wronged by history. Many are concerned about the 800,000 Filipinos living in Sabah, many of them poor and undocumented, who could be targeted in the assault or deported,” Polling said.
He also said the public mood worsened when President Aquino urged the sultanate fighters to surrender.
If the conflict in Sabah further worsens, speculations are also high that Malaysian leadership will use this as a ground to postpone the elections.
“This is extremely unlikely because many Malaysians would consider it a mere ruse to delay the polls at a time when the ruling coalition’s popularity has been falling,” Polling said.