About a month ago, the ongoing violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar, who are among the world’s most persecuted minority, has returned and reached new heights.
This violence is deemed to be a response to the attack on Myanmar’s country border guards which was allegedly committed by armed Islamic militants. Yet, no attack should ever justify the horrific cleansing against the Rohingya, a sentiment echoed by academic institutions, human rights organisation and international media reports worldwide. A study by the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary of London has discovered “widespread evidence of killings, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, and state-sanctioned campaigns of religious hatred” against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.
To this day, no fewer than 150 lives have been brutally murdered and more and 1,250 buildings have been destroyed by the Myanmar army. This incessant and extreme violence must be condemned and stopped immediately.
Malaysia must not make the same mistake that we committed during the Rohingya refugee crisis in 2015, during which our government first cruelly turned all migrant boats away and only offered help following immense public pressure.
As a gesture of goodwill for humanity, I urge the government of Malaysia to take a strong stand on denouncing the injustice committed against the Rohingya and the animosity of the Myanmar government towards the minority group. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, State Counsellor and the de facto Head of Government for Myanmar has remained silent in this situation of horrific injustice.
During his speech at the 2015 UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak spoke of the Syrian refugees who are escaping war, famine and persecution. He said with conviction that the community of Muslim world leaders must not simply “frown and turn our faces away from our fellow-Muslim poor and marginalized”.
If our Prime Minister is sincere in his words to ensure the welfare of fellow Muslims who are marginalized, Malaysia must also take the initiative to put a stop to the mistreatment of the Rohingya community.
1. First and foremost, Malaysia is a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security, in which our membership in the council will end next month. Yet, throughout Malaysia’s two years on the Council, we have not issued any statements or made speeches to denounce the tyranny, persecution and injustice suffered by the Rohingyas.
I urge Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Datuk Ramlan Ibrahim to strongly condemn the inhumane massacre of the Rohingyas in Myanmar before the opportunity to carry out our responsibility to maintain international peace and security escapes us.
2. Secondly, the Ministry of Youth and Sports should instruct the withdrawal of the national football team from the AFF Suzuki Cup in protest against the government of Myanmar who is one of two host countries of the tournament. If history serves as an example, in 1980, we have also withdrawn from the more prestigious Olympics Games to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is through this decision that we demonstrate our moral resolve and our country’s commitment to human rights issues.
In 2012, I submitted an urgent motion to put discussions on the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya centre stage at Parliament. Unfortunately, my motion to uphold our moral responsibility regarding human life was rejected by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In fact, the deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed has announced plans that the government will soon implement a pilot project to allow 300 Rohingyas, holding the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) card to work in the plantation and manufacturing sectors in Malaysia.
If the Malaysian government is determined to uphold the welfare standards of the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds, it is only right that we also extend our efforts to the international stage!
To all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, I ask that we continue to speak up to raise public awareness of the humanitarian crisis that is afflicting the Rohingya community. Lend a helping hand to support efforts organised by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Your generous contributions in the form of time, expertise or money can offer relief to the plight of the refugees who live in our country. When our society mobilises to safeguard peace and humanity, we can achieve changes for the better.
The crucial question that we must ask ourselves is this – when the atrocities and killings against humanity show no signs of stopping, should Malaysia — both its government and its people — stay silent?
Nurul Izzah Anwar
Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai
Vice President and Election Director of KEADILAN