‘PH wanted Malaysia to jail Misuari’
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines was keen on letting Malaysia handle the “Nur Misuari problem,” hoping that it could convince Kuala Lumpur to incarcerate the former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor by linking him to the Abu Sayyaf terror group, according to a confidential 2001 cable from the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Online whistle-blower WikiLeaks has released the Nov. 28, 2001, memo issued by then US Ambassador to Malaysia Marie T. Huhtala to the Department of State in Washington, DC.
The subject of the cable was “Malaysia probes Misuari ties to Abu Sayyaf group.”
Huhtala had reported that Manila was “sharing intelligence on Misuari’s possible role in the Sipadan island kidnappings (in 2000) with the hope that a resulting investigation would keep the rebel leader incarcerated in a Malaysian jail.”
“A (Malaysian) foreign ministry contact said Manila was alerting the Malaysian authorities to Misuari’s connections to the Abu Sayyaf and the Sipadan kidnappings,” said Huhtala, US envoy to Kuala Lumpur from 2001 to 2004.
The same contact had opined that the Philippine government’s “foot–dragging is attributable to fears that a rebellion trial for Misuari in the Philippines may not ultimately result in a conviction, and in the end he may just slip away.”
Misuari and six others—all members of the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)—were arrested by Malaysian authorities on Nov. 23, 2001, for illegally trying to enter Sabah, the eastern Malaysian state.
They were reportedly fleeing Mindanao after instigating an armed conflict between the MNLF and the Philippine government.
Internal matter Kuala Lumpur had given refuge to Misuari and his followers in the 1970s. But in 2001, the Malaysian government refused to provide them refuge.
Then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was quoted by Bernama as saying: “This is an internal matter of the Philippines and Malaysia should not interfere by providing refuge to rebels from other countries.”
The memo noted that Kuala Lumpur was aware that the Philippine government was “talking out of both sides of its mouth.”
The memo said that while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was hoping Malaysia would handle the Misuari problem, the Department of Foreign Affairs was sending a different message to Kuala Lumpur—that Misuari’s deportation would be requested following the ARMM elections where his successor would be elected.
“While the Philippine foreign ministry keeps assuring the government of Malaysia that Misuari’s deportation will be requested following the completion of elections in Mindanao, President Arroyo’s office has indicated that the government of Malaysia should be prepared for the long–haul,” it said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.