Philippines peace adviser oversees rebel reintegration

A seven-member independent decommissioning body with representatives from Turkey, Norway, Brunei, the Philippines and the MILF will oversee the process. (Shutterstock)
Updated 25 June 2019

Philippines peace adviser oversees rebel reintegration

  • Under the first stage, 30 percent of the MILF fighting force will be decommissioned this year

MANILA: The decommissioning of 12,000 separatist fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will start in September, a senior Philippines government adviser told Arab News on Monday.

Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that members of the government panel implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro have begun talks with communities in the six MILF camps.

The agreement was signed by the government and the MILF in 2014, and includes ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous region in Mindanao. 

“There are about 40,000 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) members due for decommissioning and this will be done in three stages,” Hermoso said.

A seven-member independent decommissioning body with representatives from Turkey, Norway, Brunei, the Philippines and the MILF will oversee the process.

 

Stages

Under the first stage, about 12,000 BIAF members, or 30 percent of the MILF fighting force, will be decommissioned this year.

Asked when decommissioning will start, Hermoso said that “they are looking at September, but no date has been set.”

The second stage will include the decommissioning of 35 percent of BIAF members after a Bangsamoro police force is established. 

Decommissioning of remaining MILF fighters will take place when the government and MILF panels have signed an exit document confirming that all their agreements have been implemented.

As chair of the joint peace and security committee, Hermoso is in charge of bringing fighters to processing centers and then returning them to their communities.

The 12,000 BIAF members have already  surrendered their high-powered firearms, he said.

Experts on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration will oversee decommissioning of combatants, while joint peace and security teams will secure the processing areas.

Decommissioned fighters will be profiled to help integration into their communities.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved a wide-ranging government plan to aid former combatants, their families and their communities during the transition process.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the normalization process will address the “drivers and triggers” that breed conflict in Mindanao communities.

He said this would take place “by eliminating the conditions and vulnerabilities for potential conflict, changing the behavioral patterns and mindset of individuals and organizations, and pushing them to work to achieve harmony, interdependence, and the common good.”


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”