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I MET LIBYA'S COL QADDAFI

DAVAO CITY -- I met Libya's Col. Muammar Khaddafi (Qaddafi) twice, first in 2001 and then again in 2006. In 2001, I headed the government panel then as chair of the government panel negotiating with the MILF. While in Tripoli, we first got word that we might be able to meet the "Great Leader", a title referring to Col Qaddafi. We were not given details but we were just told to prepare for a trip.

We motored to an airport and sat in a waiting room with then Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Presidential Peace Adviser Ed Ermita and others. Then we were told to board an aircraft. It was Russian made and looked rickety and old . The engines sounded strange but we pretended we did not mind. After some flying, we landed in a concrete airstrip in the middle of no-where – just endless sand and sand dunes could be seen. Limousines suddenly arrived in a cloud of dust and we traveled to what was a fetched tent in the middle of the desert . I noticed a big 40-footer van parked nearby and some limousines. Then I saw some elephants near the tent. We entered a big tent with some chairs prepositioned inside. Someone mentioned to me that the airconditioned vans were used to ferry his favorite elephant pets wherever he would go.

The "Leader" was in his usual robe, seated in the center field of the big tent and spoke through an interpreter. He first apologized that the meeting had to be moved to Sirti in the middle of the desert. Sirti is his home town and safe haven. He said that his security people were always concerned about being bombed by "our enemies". (Qaddafi's headquarters was bombed years before resulting to the death of his favorite adopted daughter. He preserved that building in its ruins as a "museum of western's evil intentions" against him.)

He spoke about the need for the Philippine government and the MILF to work for peace and find a solution to the problem. He mentioned that conflict and fighting were pointless. And the way to peace was for both sides to work on possible solutions.
Then we flew back to Tripoli. It was his son Saif Al Islam who was our host and who presided over the signing ceremony when we signed during that trip the "Agreement of Peace" which became the roadmap and framework of the peace negotiations with the MILF up to the present. Kagi Murad was then my counterpart as MILF panel chair. When Chairman Hashim Salamat later died, Kagi Murad succeeded him while Mohagher Iqbal took over as panel chair in 2003. I resigned in 2003 and Sec. Silvestre "Yong" Afable took over from me.

The 2nd face to face meeting with Col Qaddafi was in 2006 when I was the peace adviser and President Arroyo was on a presidential visit intended primarily to express gratitude to Libya for its assistance to the peace process. (Libya did not only host peace talks but volunteered resources and Libyan military officials to become members of the International Monitoring Team, a mechanism to maintain the ceasefire.

I recall that during the evening welcome dinner, the Leader and PGMA were chatting lively. The following morning, our convoy was already motoring to the airport when we were signaled to change course and while the rest of the presidential delegation proceeded to the airport, PGMA and a few of us were brought to a tent although somewhere still in Tripoli. Col Qaddafi was there waiting inside the tent.

I recall PGMA making preliminary pleasantries and asked: "Where are your elephants, Your Excellency". (We could not see any near or around the tent area when we motored in) The "Leader" merely answered: "They're coming". Then he motioned to an aide. And while still chatting, lo and behold, a herd of elephants were peeping at the door of the tent. Then when someone mentioned how good elephants' milk were for drinking, in a little while glasses with chilled elephants' milk were being served. That was to be a memorable event to me because I finished off the whole glass as I was so thirsty while I saw PGMA merely gingerly sipping at the glass just to taste. (My misery started while we were airborne as I spent the whole time going to and from the plane restroom due to a bad stomach. I vowed not to even take a sip of elephant's milk ever again.)

Another remarkable event to me was when Col Qaddafi, in his initial greetings with PGMA immediately asked : "How is Imelda?", referring of course to former First Lady Imelda Marcos. PGMA answered saying "she is well" etc and in Manila. The Leader nodded and remained silent for a while – clearly reminiscing. Madame Imelda, if we all recall, was our country's travelling envoy to Libya while then President Marcos was grappling with the problems posed by the Moro National Liberation Front headed by Nur Misuari. It was everybody's belief that Imelda was able to charm the Great Leader during her missions. Remember press reports about grand banquets and pompous tent gatherings during those times when Madame Imelda came a-visiting.

When PGMA thanked him for his contributions to peace in the Philippines, he started saying (through an interpreter) that his help to the Philippines now to find peace was because he committed a big mistake. He explained that he started helping the Muslims fight government in the previous period because he thought that the Philippine government was trampling upon Muslims, killing them and fighting Islam. He said he saw a TV documentary that showed how Muslims were being massacred. That made him pledge that he would support the rebels. It was only later, he said, that he found out that while there were incidents against Muslims, it was not a government policy but some incidents committed by groups. His help to the peace process was to rectify the wrong he committed to the Philippines by supporting the rebellion in the previous years. He said that he is more convinced now that Muslim minorities all around the world must find peaceful relations with the majority non-Muslims.

I now look back at those two events barely within a span of 10 years. Now, Col Qaddafi is fighting a survival game in his own land. He is reportedly moving against his own people. How this will end is still unclear. We will see.


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About the Author
Jess G. Dureza Atty. Jess G. Dureza
E-mail: jessdureza@gmail.com
Url : www.advocacymindanow.org

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