Timor Leste president willing to mediate in Mindanao peace process

www.gmanews.tv, 13 January 2009


MANILA, Philippines — Timor Leste President and Nobel Peace Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta is willing to help mediate in the Mindanao peace process if both the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) invite him.

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a regional advocacy NGO based in Davao City, said Horta intimated his willingness to him to help mediate.

IID has proposed to Horta to help the stalled peace negotiations between the government and the MILF assistance after the Supreme Court rule on the unconstitutionality of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Horta is in the country to give a lecture Wednesday on "Is Long Lasting Peace an Attainable Dream?" through the invitation of the Ateneo de Davao University in cooperation with Bridges: Dialogues Toward a Culture of Peace and the Bangkok-based International Peace Foundation.
Horta's public lecture will be held in the afternoon at the Ateneo Jacinto Campus and admission is free.

Miclat said that IID highly recommends President Horta for his unwavering work for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in then East Timor which finally led to its independence from Indonesian rule in 2002. He said that Horta can very well complement the already exemplary work of Malaysia in seeing through the peace process.

"He did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize for nothing and his signal prestige and wisdom plus his impartiality can provide the stalled talks a new whiff of energy and perhaps the corridor to an eventual agreement," Miclat said.

IID had been initiating calls for more political involvement of other international actors in the peace process. In a consultation with a European Union delegation in Cotabato last month, IID pushed for the EU to go beyond its concern for the humanitarian crisis spawned by large-scale skirmishes in the aftermath of the MOA-AD debacle.

ID has particularly called on the EU to join the International Monitoring Team or also help guarantee or facilitate the peace process. The calls have since been echoed by other civil society groups in Mindanao.

IID was also recently honored by Horta in a personal tribute on its 20th anniversary last August, affirming that IID's work helped in eventually galvanizing support for the Timorese cause in the region.

Guesting at a forum jointly organized by IID and the UP Law Center to also celebrate the state university's centennial, "Horta challenged us to continue the creative and bold initiatives in advocating peaceful and constant dialogue among peoples in conflict, and this proposal is a response to that call" Miclat said.

Before he became president and being now received as a state guest, Miclat reminded that Horta was barred from the Philippines in attending the IID-organized conference of the Asia-Pacific Coalition for East Timor (APCET) in 1994 by then President Fidel Ramos upon intense pressure from Indonesian President Suharto to stop the conference at all cost. Horta has since been joking about that debacle saying it was just a little "misunderstanding between distant Ramos cousins," alluding to their common surnames.

"However, he is now returning to the country and in Davao City not only as a head of state but a champion for peace who is willing to help the people of Mindanao," Miclat said.

IID along with the Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW) were the lead organizers of the recently launched Duyog Mindanao Peoples' Caravan for Peace and Solidarity which brought people from Northern Luzon, Metro Manila and the Visayas to visit the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao and call for the resumption of the peace talks as well as support for the peoples' right to self-determination and ancestral domain.

The group is currently involved in pursuing conflict prevention, peace building, democratization and self-determination programs in Mindanao, Burma and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. - D’Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV