Civil Societies Urge Dialogue to Resolve Sabah Conflict

CALM down, don’t shoot but instead let’s talk to peacefully resolve the Sabah crisis.

This was the appeal made by five large civil society networks to the Sulu sultanate and Malaysian and Philippine governments amid the escalating use of firepower in the North Borneo province. The NGOs who made the appeal are Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW), Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Southeast Asia (SEA-GPPAC), Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (AKKAPKA) and Derepa te Erumanen ne Menuvu (DEM). Peace Advocates Zamboanga and its partner Interreligious Solidarity for Peace are members of MPW.

“On the unfolding tragedy now threatening parts of Sabah, we urgently call upon President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia, the Sultanate of Sulu and its heirs led by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, together with any and all individuals, organizations and networks who disavow violence and conflict, and who support dialogue as their primary mechanism for peace, to now unite and work towards bringing all the involved parties together in seeking a peaceful resolution to the issues at hand”, the statement said.

The civil society groups lauded the present and past practice of the protagonists to resolve conflicts particularly the Bangsamoro rebellion.

But, “The convergence of conditions that engendered this event (Sabah crisis) shows us all that a number of underlying issues may have remained long simmering, out of sight to most of us, and now needs to be addressed sensibly and soon,” they admonished.

They expressed concern that the now-armed conflict will take collateral toll on Filipinos who have been residing and working there. “The threat and deprivation forced upon the lives and futures of the innocent brought on by conflict, particularly those impacting on women and children, remains unacceptable to us”, they asserted.

Echoing the rising call by international bodies for dialogue to resolve the issue, the statement further said: “We feel that the chance to remedy the Sabah situation is still at hand, granted we act quickly, calmly and with sobriety, remaining steadfast in our commitment to dialogue, negotiations and ultimately peace.”

They also warned that “We also should not let ourselves be swayed by the apparent machinations and apathy of those who selfishly see no benefit for themselves by staying on the path of peace (which) the majority of us have chosen.”

“We therefore call on the key actors, from the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia, the Sultanate of Sulu and its heirs, engaged by other stakeholders along with all of us who value peace above all, to sign on in calling for an immediate end to the violence and come together in a dialogue for peace on the issues pertaining to Sabah”, they concluded.

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