Oct 182014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/05/08KUALALUMPUR343.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08KUALALUMPUR343
2008-05-05 10:03
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Kuala Lumpur

VZCZCXRO5168
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHKL #0343/01 1261003
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051003Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0925
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 2535
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2516
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 000343

SIPDIS

FOR EAP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/05/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR PTER MOPS EAID KISL JA RP MY
SUBJECT: OTHMAN CONFIRMS MALAYSIA’S STAGED IMT PULL-OUT FROM MINDANAO

REF: A. KUALA LUMPUR 94 – FEBRUARY PROXIMITY TALKS
¶B. MANILA 238 – ARROYO REVISES MILF PEACE PROPOSAL
¶C. KUALA LUMPUR 4 – AMBASSADOR MEETS DPM NAJIB

Classified By: Political Section Chief Mark D. Clark for reasons 1.4 (b
and d).

Summary
——-

¶1. (C) Malaysian facilitator for the Philippines (GRP)/Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks Othman Abdul
Razak, speaking with polchief April 28, confirmed Malaysia’s
decision to withdraw in stages from the International
Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao beginning on/about May 10
and concluding in August. Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais
Yatim made a premature public announcement of the pull-out
decision before it was conveyed formally to the GRP.
Malaysia took the decision in order to increase pressure on
the GRP to reach a compromise with the MILF, and would
reverse the decision if Manila re-engaged constructively in
the talks. Othman, however, said the GRP response so far had
been negative, and public talk in Manila of replacing
Malaysia in the IMT with another country, like Indonesia,
could hasten Malaysia’s withdrawal. Malaysia has not decided
to end its facilitation role, though it may come to that
after the full IMT withdrawal. Othman stated that he
increasingly believed President Arroyo and the GRP lacked the
political will to reach a negotiated solution. The IMT made
sense only as part of a peace process, not as a mechanism for
perpetual cease-fire. Malaysia has pulled back from its IMT
threats before, but this time it has set in motion a formal
decision that will be more difficult to reverse. End Summary.

Staged Withdrawal
—————–

¶2. (C) Othman, during an hour-long meeting with polchief on
April 28, confirmed that Deputy Prime Minister Najib and the
Malaysian Cabinet had decided to withdraw Malaysia’s
approximately 50 military personnel from the IMT. (Comment:
Othman in theory reports to Prime Minister Abdullah, but he
associated the decisions related to Mindanao to Najib, who as
Defense Minister has appeared more active on the issue. End
Comment.) This would be done in stages beginning on/about
May 10 and concluding at the end of August (the end of the
IMT’s current mandate). Othman claimed the decision came on
his advice that the GRP was not engaging in earnest in the
peace process. Malaysia had threatened to withdraw from the
IMT on several occasions, most recently after the aborted
December 2007 round, but never carried through with the
threat. With no traction in the talks since December,
Malaysia’s credibility was on the line.

¶3. (C) Othman explained the withdrawal would be in stages in
order to give Manila opportunity to respond constructively,
for example, by compromising on the major outstanding issue
of ancestral domain (both territory and governance in a
proposed Bangsamoro Judicial Entity). Malaysia retained the
option of halting or reversing the withdrawal depending on
Manila’s actions. Othman said Malaysia had not decided to
withdraw its facilitation role (Othman’s function), but this
also could end following the final IMT withdrawal in August.

Foreign Minister Jumps the Gun
——————————

¶4. (C) Malaysia’s new Foreign Minister Rais Yatim
“mistakenly” announced the GOM’s withdrawal decision to the
press, before Malaysia had sent formal notification to the
GRP. FM Rais “doesn’t understand the situation and my role,”
Othman explained with some exasperation. The GOM, via the
Foreign Ministry and the Armed Forces Commander, intended to
convey the formal notification by May 2. Nevertheless, DPM
Najib had informed two visiting GRP cabinet officials of the
withdrawal during a recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Manila Responding Negatively
—————————-

¶5. (C) While Malaysia stood ready to reverse the withdrawal
decision, Othman said Manila’s response thus far had been
“negative.” Othman had received no indication that the
withdrawal decision was prompting GRP movement on the current
negotiating impasse. Instead, GRP officials were speaking
publicly about the replacing Malaysian troops with those of

KUALA LUMP 00000343 002 OF 002

another country. Polchief noted that Indonesia had been
mentioned in the press, and Othman reacted with some emotion
that such talk by the GRP could precipitate a more rapid
Malaysian pull-out. Further, he said that bringing in
another country to participate in the IMT was not a
unilateral GRP decision, but also needed the consent of the
MILF. Othman added that GRP talk of negotiating directly was
unrealistic as the MILF did not want direct talks without a
third party facilitator.

No Political Will
—————–

¶6. (C) Othman said that he was increasingly pessimistic
regarding the GRP-MILF talks. Othman claimed that in
February he had extracted more concessions out of the MILF on
the ancestral domain. Manila, however, had taken the
position that it must conduct a “legal review,” not only of
the ancestral domain issue, but of all previously negotiated
points. Othman said he increasingly believed President
Arroyo and the GRP did not have the political will necessary
to conclude an agreement with the MILF and take the risks
necessary to achieve peace, such as finding creative ways to
circumvent constitutional barriers. He recounted a meeting
with Arroyo earlier in the year in which the President
remarked that “Mindanao would be someone else’s problem in
2010,” which Othman interpreted as a lack of commitment to
reach a deal with the MILF during her administration. The
IMT made sense only in the context of a peace process.
However, Manila seemed to view the IMT as a mechanism to help
enforce a perpetual cease-fire independent of negotiations.

¶7. (C) Othman commented that OIC efforts to resuscitate
implementation of the 1996 accord between the GRP and the
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) should proceed in
parallel with the MILF talks. The two streams should compare
notes after the conclusion of the MILF negotiations, not
before.

¶8. (C) In response to Othman’s points, Polchief stated that
the U.S. remained committed to encouraging the GRP to
complete its legal review of the ancestral domain proposal
and to move forward with the MILF toward a signed initial
document. Polchief also noted that all sides had recognized
the IMT’s contribution to lessening hostilities in Mindanao.

Comment
——-

¶9. (C) Othman no doubt intended his comments to influence as
much as to inform, and he expressly hoped that the U.S. would
add pressure on the GRP, particularly on the ancestral domain
issue. Malaysia risks its regional influence and reputation
if it is tagged with a failure in the MILF peace process, and
ceding its role to Indonesia would be particularly galling,
as Othman’s reaction suggests. We do not know if Othman
would attempt to use his MILF connections to frustrate
alternative IMT or negotiating arrangements, but we would not
rule that out. Malaysia has pulled back from its IMT threats
before, but this time it has set in motion a formal decision
that will be more difficult to reverse, and seemingly require
some tangible movement in the talks. Foreign Minister Rais
Yatim’s gaff may have cost the Malaysians initial leverage
out of the IMT decision. In any event, Othman left us with
the impression that Malaysia’s facilitation role as well as
IMT participation could draw to a close in the coming months.
KEITH

   

 

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