May 2, 2013

WikiLeaks: Libya used Sabah to arm Moro rebels in Southern Philippines

Sabah had played a big role in the rise of the Muslim secessionist movement in Mindanao in the 1970s when it was used as conduit in the smuggling of arms from Libya to southern Philippines, according to declassified cables published by WikiLeaks.

According to two cables, former Sabah chief minister Tun Mustapha facilitated the arms smuggling from Libya, then ruled by military dictator Muammar Gaddafi, to Mindanao to arm Moro rebels there in the hope that it will force the Philippines to abandon its claim to Sabah.

A cable dated April 17, 1976, quoted then-Sabah chief minister Tun Fuad as saying that it was “no secret” that his predecessor, Mustapha, supplied arms to Philippine guerrillas.

“He said it was no secret that his predecessor, former chief minister Tun Mustapha, had been running guns and money from Libya's Gaddafi to the Philippine guerrillas,” according to the secret cable written by an unnamed American Embassy official in Kuala Lumpur.

The official reported that “assistance has been provided to Filipino Muslim insurgents directly by Mustapha, by Libya and perhaps other Arab countries through Mustapha, and there is evidence of GOM (Government of Malaysia) agencies collaborating with Mustapha.”

The official added that Mustapha seemed to have resorted to arms smuggling following reports that then-Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was training Muslims to invade Sabah, a disputed territory. This project failed and eventually led to the killing of 68 to 200 young Moros on March 18, 1968, an event now known as the Jabidah Massacre.

“(Government of Malaysia's) involvement in the southern Philippines was triggered by evidence in 1968-89 that president Marcos was training Muslims for infiltration of Sabah (the Jabidah affair),” according to the cable.

The official also said the Sabah government would not stop arms smuggling unless Marcos gives up the Sabah claim.

“The mission feels that while present Kuala Lumpur government may be less inclined to condone direct assistance to Moro rebels, the government of Malaysia (Mustapha) will not give up possibility of extending such assistance until President Marcos publicly and categorically abandons Philippine claim to Sabah,” according to the cable.

Upon finding out about Marcos' plan to invade Sabah, Malaysia allegedly conspired with Moro secessionist groups to distract the Philippines from the Sabah claim, said Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the Jamalul Kiram III's sultanate whose forces are fighting against Malaysian authorities in their stake for the land.

Sabah then instigated an "arms shipping" from Libya to Sulu, Palawan and Mindanao to arm a group of young Moro soldiers which came to be known as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), he added.

After MNLF co-opted with the Philippine government, Sabah then veered their arms shipments to a breakaway group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Idjirani claimed. The MNLF signed a peace pact with the government in 1996. On the other hand, the MILF is now conducting exploratory talks on the peace process in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"The arm shipments were done to augment the power capacity of the MNLF in fighting against Philippine government. When they co-opted with the Philippine government, they now encouraged the MILF to fight against Philippine government," Idjirani said in a phone interview.

"It is Malaysia who created the Mindanao conflict so that the Philippine government could not focus their attention in pursuing their claim to Sabah," he added.

Reached for a reaction, MILF peace panel chairperson Mohagher Iqbal said he does not want to comment on a "very delicate issue."

As of posting time, GMA News Online was still awaiting for a response on our e-mailed query from the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines.

Another cable detailing the meeting between former Indonesian ambassador Sjarif Thajeb in a meeting with US State Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Marshal Green mentioned reports that the Indonesian government invited Sabah's Mustapha “in order to persuade him to stop supporting Muslim insurgents in Southern Philippines.”

The Indonesian ambassador was then under the “view that problem would be resolved if GOP (Government of the Philippines) renounced its claim to Sabah, but observed that this view (is) 'not yet' communicated to GOP,” according to the cable dated March 10, 1973. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK/RSJ, GMA News


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