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Iqbal: Sabah better off under Malaysia

One issue where the loyalty, and even citizenship perhaps, of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders really lies is in their stance regarding the Philippines’ claim to Sabah.

While we haven’t heard Chairman Murad Ibrahim or Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar declare where they stand on the issue, we have it straight from the mouth (or pen) of the insurgent group’s spokesman and signatory to President Benigno S. Aquino’s peace pact, he who goes by the name of Mohagher Iqbal.

Iqbal, according to the presidential peace adviser’s office, wrote the book Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny under the pen name Salah Jubair. I suspect that is his real name, since he authored it back in 1984 when he hadn’t risen through the ranks of the MILF hierarchy.

Where was the book first published? In Mansoorah, Lahore, Pakistan by an “Islamic Research Academy.” Strangely, though, I can’t get any information on such an Academy, and I got a bit worried that I might have raised a red alarm in some US National Security Agency analyst’s computer why I was googling that “institute.”

Interestingly, though, Lahore is the site of the Iqbal Academy set up by the government of Pakistan. That academy specializes in studies on Muhammad Iqbal, the philosopher-politician who inspired the breakaway of what was once part of British India into the nation that is now Pakistan.

Jubair, or whatever his real name is, obviously is a big fan of Muhammad Iqbal, so much so that he adopted that name. Does he see himself as the Mindanao equivalent of Pakistan’s Iqbal, that with his book he will inspire the formation of a new independent nation, Bangsamoro?

And succeeding editions? There were – in 1999 and 2004 – by IQ Marin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Iqbal and the cover of his book where he said Sabah under the Philippines “would have been disastrous.”
Iqbal and the cover of his book where he said Sabah under the Philippines “would have been disastrous.”

One chapter entitled “The Rock” narrated the fiction called the “Jabidah Massacre,” a yarn very tellingly isn’t mentioned in any official MILF document. According to that story, Moro recruits who were being trained by our military as commandos to infiltrate Sabah—in a secret plan codenamed Merdeka— were massacred when they mutinied.

Iqbal didn’t add anything to that fiction. What astonished me was Iqbal’s comment on it:

“Had Project Merdeka succeeded and Sabah was invaded, the consequence would have been disastrous. Besides, what benefits awaited the Moros if Sabah became part of the Philippines? The fact of the matter was that Sabah under Malaysia was very progressive.”

Do you still believe that Iqbal and his MILF comrades really care for the Philippines?

Bangsamoro with Malaysia
With that kind of mindset Iqbal even boasts of, my suspicion on the MILF’s real plan after the Bangsamoro Basic Law is enacted and their Bangsamoro substate is set up, and after its guerillas take on the cloak of “Bangsamoro Police” has been bolstered. The real MILF plan is as follows:

The MILF will complain that it isn’t getting enough finances from the government, that our military has been attacking its forces and that they’re not getting what they were promised. The Bangsamoro Parliament declares their independence from the Philippines, and asks to be a member of the Federation of Malaysia. They would even file a formal case at the UN to be admitted into Malaysia. And if the Bangsamoro Police is unable to fend off our military sent to secure the Bangsamoro territory so the Republic won’t be dismembered, what will the MILF do? Ask Malaysian forces to intervene.

President Aquino’s road to peace will be a road to war with our neighbor, the likes of which we have never seen.

Impossible? Read again the BBL, and I haven’t gotten over my shock that our legislators prefer to interpret it otherwise. The third paragraph of the BBL reads:

“Affirming the distinct historical identity and birthright of the Bangsamoro people to their ancestral homeland and their right to self-determination – beginning with the struggle for freedom of their forefathers in generations past and extending to the present – to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity, and allow for genuine and meaningful self-governance. (Emphasis mine.)

“Right to self-determination, and to chart their political future, for meaningful self-governance”: These are all terms most often used in the few cases of new nations achieving independence after World War II. Our negotiators, of course, insist that the above paragraph refers only to the autonomy of the Bangsamoro political entity.

That is how our negotiators are being tricked. When the Bangsamoro moves into the second phase of its strategy, it will claim that our government agreed, under a law its Congress passed, to the Bangsamoro’s “right to self-determination.”

Iqbal, obviously, because he wanted to boast that he was an MILF insider, in his book also revealed how crucial Malaysian and Libyan support had been to the growth of the MNLF, from which the MILF broke away.

The idea that there was a “Bangsamoro” centuries ago, and the BBL will merely restore to the ‘Moros’ their right to that “homeland” is pure trash. The idea was invented mainly by MNLF founder Nur Misuari as a smokescreen to the fact that it was Malaysia and then Libya that backed the MNLF and the MILF grew to become a major insurgency, not the support of Muslims in a genuine liberation movement.

Mustapha, a Tausug
Below is an excerpt from Iqbal’s book, lifted verbatim:

“The first foreign leader, though at the state level, to extend concrete help to the Moros was Tun Datu Mustapha Haron, Chief Minister of Sabah. There were many reasons why he came to the rescue of the Moros. One of these was his biological, emotional and historical connection with the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu.

His mother was a Tausug and, therefore, he was as much a Moro as the rest of his brethren. He allowed Sabah to be used as training camp, supply depot, communication center and sanctuary.

The implication of Tun Datu Mustapha Haron’s stance and later, also of Kuala Lumpur —Sabah is part of the Federation of Malaysia—was a major irritant between the two neighbors.

The Philippines had a longstanding claim over Sabah that at one time almost led to open warfare. Sabah had begun to be regarded by the Philippines as part of her territory on the strength of ownership claim by the ancient Sulu sultanate.

Kuala Lumpur had never admitted aiding the Moros. The official position of Malaysia regarding the Mindanao crisis had been confined only to actively supporting resolutions passed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

In 1971, Libyan Pres. Muammar Qhaddafi openly declared his support for the Moros, who were apparently the object of a genocide campaign. In the same year, Libyan Foreign Minister Saleh Bouyasser came to the Philippines with a US$1 million pledge of his government to bankroll the ongoing guerrilla training of 300 Moro recruits in Malaysia. A year later, when Martial Law was declared, Libyan money, weapons and other materials started to flow into the frontlines in Mindanao and Sulu.

In May 1971, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was founded. One of its aims, as set clearly in its Charter, is to strengthen the struggle of all Muslim peoples with a view to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights. It so happened that Tunku Abdul Rahman, the founding father and first Prime Minister of Malaya (later, Malaysia), was the first Secretary General of this powerful PanIslamic body.

As head of the OIC, he (Rahman) was instrumental in the support extended to the Moros by the OIC memberstates, especially Libya and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” (Emphasis added.)”

Iqbal reported in his book that even the Muslim traditional politicians, who participated in our democratic system and profited from it, were traitors who sought the help of Malaysia to build up the MNLF insurgency.

“Before the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, the Moro traditional or aristocratic leaders, the likes of Cong. Rashid Lucman, ExSen. Salipada Pendatun and ExGov. Datu Udtog Matalam, were still very powerful.

As a matter of fact, the first batch of ninety Moro trainees known as the ‘Top 90’ who were sent to Sabah or, more precisely, to Palau Pangkor, State of Perak, Malaysia, for intensive military training or guerrilla warfare was made possible through the facilitation of these leaders.” As may be shown by the number of recruits from each ethno-linguistic grouping, Lucman, who was a Maranao, had the greater say: 64 members were Maranaos, 15 were from the Sulu region and only 11 were from Cotabato. Sad to state, however, most of the Maranaos surrendered to the government.”

Have we, as a nation, lost our sense of self-respect that a foreign power, Malaysia, brokers and even oversees our peace pact with a rebel group, which it supported with funds, arms, training, and sanctuary so it could keep a territory that is ours, Sabah?