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Sema calls for sobriety, prudence among Moro groups

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The largest of the three groups in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Monday called for prudence and sobriety among Moro sectors critical of the Sabah issue, to prevent creating undue animosity among Malaysians and Filipinos.

Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest and most politically active MNLF faction, said issuing hostile comments based on “emotions and not on reason” will only worsen the miseries of Moro and non-Moro Filipinos in Sabah.

“Issuing comments that can inflame the situation is a disservice to our suffering compatriots there. The Filipinos, as a nation, is not at war with Malaysia. The conflict there is between the sultanate of Sulu and Malaysian security forces,” Sema said.

“And there can always be a solution to that problem, as long as the protagonists agree to resolving the conflict according to the Islamic context of fraternalism and dialogues,” Sema said.

Sema and many clerics in Central Mindanao have been appealing for a peaceful and immediate end to the crisis in Sabah.

Ustadz Esmael Ebrahim, a commissioner in the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, said it us un-Islamic for Muslims to fight each other over issues they can resolve through dialogues and consensus-building.

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“For now, what we want is an immediate end to the hostilities in Sabah,” Ebrahim said.

Ebrahim also appealed to the Malaysian government to allow representatives from Manila to visit the conflict-stricken areas in Sabah to enable them to attend to the needs of thousands of Filipinos displaced by the hostilities in the island state.

A Tausog Imam, Yusoph Sabirani, said Malaysia should reciprocate Kiram's unilateral ceasefire declaration.

Sema also branded as “pure lies” the recent published reports that the MNLF, which signed a peace pact with the national government on Sept. 2, 1996, has sent guerillas to Sabah to reinforce the followers of Kiram.

“Those reports are not true. The MNLF has a peace agreement with the national government. We in the MNLF will not embark on anything that will endanger the lives of Filipinos in Sabah, regardless of whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims,” Sema said.

Members of the MNLF group led by Sema and the rank-and-file personnel of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao are also urging local and international human rights organizations to help look into the situation of Filipinos in Sabah.

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