Martin McGuinness: next stop Philippines?
He may not even know it himself yet, but Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness may soon be on a plane to the Philippines as the latest stop in his blossoming (and occasionally satirised) career as one of the world's foremost peacemakers.
While I wouldn't like to predict any Nobel Peace Prize nominations just yet for the one-time IRA commander, after his efforts in Sri Lanka with the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) and Iraq with the Shia and Sunni rivals, the developing human rights crisis in the Philippines may now be on the receiving end of McGuinness' steely-eyed peace offensive.
Amnesty International yesterday warned of the desperate downward spiral of the situation in the Mindanao region of the country which has seen the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) occupying farmlands in North Cotabato province, burning houses and displacing more than 150,000 people. Now the government has started to arm local militias with 1,000 shotguns being shipped to the region by the state police and another 12,000 guns offered. In short: it doesn't look good.
Now the UK Ambassador Peter Beckingham has pledged British government willingness to bring politicians from the here to share with the Philippine government and the (unfortunately acronymed) MILF the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process.
“The Philippine government have assured me this week that they would value visits from Northern Ireland to discuss such issues as decommissioning of arms, as well as the political process."
“As Northern Ireland demonstrated clearly international involvement and support can help tip discussions towards a peace agreement."
Martin McGuinness, stand by your phone. You read it here first.
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