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Malaysia PM: Peace deal act of ‘momentous courage’

Rappler.com
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak renews a pledge to continue helping the Philippines after the peace deal is signed

PEACEMAKERS. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Benigno Aquino III after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Malacanang photo

MANILA, Philippines – Away from his country at a difficult time, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak joined the Philippines in celebrating the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which he called a “momentous act of courage.”

“In signing this agreement, the two sides have looked not to the problems of the past but to the promise of the future. After so many years of conflict and so many lives lost, it is a momentous act of courage and it will change the nation’s history forever,” said Najib, who arrived in Manila on Thursday, March 27, for the event held at the Malacañang Palace grounds.

Watch his arrival below.

Malaysia is the third party facilitator of the 17-year peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Forty years ago, darkness came to Mindanao. In a struggle which bridged a generation, 150,000 lives were lost. Today, we turn to face the light. Today belongs to the Philippines, and to the people of the Bangsamoro,” he said.

Najib said while the two parties are leaving behind conflict in the Southern Philippines, they must “steel” themselves for a “good challenge” that would require providing opportunities to the people of Bangsamoro.

“Unity cannot be decreed over night. After so many years, there are no easy shortcuts. Much work remains and there will be setbacks along the way but the commitment to peace, the commitment I see in this surrounding today must not waver. It must be steadfast and we must be resolute,” he said.

Watch his speech at the signing below.

‘Malaysia will continue to help’

Najib renewed a commitment he made at the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012 – that Malaysia will continue to help the Philippines in its pursuit of development.

“We are willing to help build institutions, strengthen education, improve agriculture. This promise stands for as long as it is needed. Malaysia remains a partner for peace and for development,” he said.

Najib said that the peace process has fortified the “bond of trust” between the Philippines and Malaysia, and gave his assurance that Malaysia will remain in its role as third party facilitator and will continue working through the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao.

Najib, who is in the country even as his government faces criticism over its handling of the Malaysia Airline incident, said the Malaysian government’s “belief  in cooperation across borders has been strengthened by tragedy.”

“The loss of 239 people on board flight MH370 has been devastating. Malaysia is grateful for the support of our friends and neighbors, including the Philippines in the continuing search effort. At this difficult time, we draw strength from the compassionate response of our fellow nations,” he said.

Najib also paid tribute to President Benigno Aquino III for his role in the peace process, and others involved in the negotiations, including lead peace panel negotiators Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for the MILF and Miriam Coronel Ferrer for the government. (READ: Aquino: ‘Peace won’t be snatched from my people again’)

Quick visit

Najib was in the country for less than a day.

After the signing ceremony, he and his delegation were feted to a merienda cena or late afternoon reception at Malacanang’s Rizal Hall before their return to Kuala Lumpur that night. Aquino, in his toast to Najib and his wife, expressed the country’s “sincere appreciation” for their presence considering the situation in Malaysia.

“We know full well that you and your government have the heavy responsibility of attending to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Such a tragedy understandably led to an outpouring of emotion – of uncertainty, anxiety, and anger – and you, as head of government, were thrust into a position where you were asked to immediately answer questions to which the full answers were not available. I empathize with you fully,” he said.

The President reiterated his offer of “any and all forms of assistance that we can possibly render” in this regard and said that the Philippines will never forget its debt of gratitude to Malaysia for the successful facilitation of the peace negotiations.

“Rest assured: as we move towards the realization of our aspirations for Mindanao, we will never forget the significance of your contributions. With this comes our pledge to build on this success – one that is truly shared by Filipinos and all other peoples of goodwill across the world – and our promise to continue standing by the Malaysian people and strengthen the ties that bind our nations,” he said.

Kris acts as ‘First Lady’

Prior to the signing ceremony, Najib paid a courtesy call on Aquino at the Palace Music Room to discuss bilateral issues.

Najib was with other Malaysian officials including Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman while Aquino was joined by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

Actress Kris Aquino entertained the Prime Minister’s wife, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, in a separate room.

Since Aquino is a bachelor, his sisters have been taking turns performing the social functions of a First Lady.

Kris also played the part during Najib’s last Philippine visit in 2012, for a two-day official visit to witness the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. – Rappler.com

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