Monday, January 19, 2009

...Roundtable on 'Current Issues and Challenges in Mindanao'

I mentioned briefly about the above dialogue in my last blogpost but I thought I would not do justice to the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) alumni Malaysia (especially the untiring passion of Tuan Haji Zul Baharom) and INSPAG-UiTM Director/Senior Fellow HE Dato 'Dr Mohd Yusof Ahmad for their efforts at helping advance the peace process that would bring new hope and sustainable economic development to this autonomous region in Southern Philippines. YBhg Dato' Syed Ahmad Idid former CJ and also a AIM alumnus, provided positive inputs and commentaries and hoped that the roundtable would escalate into a much more serious outcome in tourism, business development and investment opportunities benefiting both Malaysia and Mindanao.
Perhaps for those of you who may have not the faintest idea of what I am talking about or never understood what the problems are in Mindanao, should read this book above, that had been in my collection for more than 30 years ago. It was published in 1980 (3 years after I joined OUP) and I have the special boxed bound edition. It was written by TJS George (Editor of the now defunct magazine ASIAWEEK, in Hong Kong). It is a definitive book, written not only from an Asian perspective, but with wit and sympathy. It is a comprehensive history of the subject, written for the firs time (1980) in a readable and non-academic yet thought-provoking style. The Muslim separatist movement in Southern Philippines had claimed (in 1980), by official estimate, more than 5000 lives and it continued to ravage the country then. It had become an international issue in part through the resurgence sweeping the Islamic World at the time. The root of the problem lie embedded in the history of the Philippines, but the author contends that the schisms within the Muslims themselves and the cleavage between Christian and Muslim Filipinos can still be resolved. Different aspects of the overall problem have been studied by scholars, mostly in the form of treaties. The book draws a striking parallel between Spain and the United States as colonial masters, finds early Philippine leaders lacking in understanding of Islam, and accuses Mindanao's traditional Muslim leaders (at the time) of self-aggrandisement. It examines in colourful detail some bizarre episodes of contemporary history: a politician's plan to establish a new sultanate in Sabah, A Christian army officer's escapade as a Muslim in Sulu that ended up in the 'Jabidah Massacre'. It also analyses the role of the Arabs in Mindanao. Throughout the book the author argues that the opportunity to settle the problem to the advantage of Mindanao's Muslims still exist (in 1980)then and I believe there is never a better time than now. This book should be an interesting read indeed. Mind you, it was written 30 years ago! Go read it...I can lend you my copy (evil wink) at prevailing daily rates of course...haha.

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