Year 2016, Malaysia takes bold steps to fight for Rohingya, Syrians
Last updated on 16 December 2016 – 04:38pm
PUTRAJAYA: The year 2016 saw Malaysia taking a bold step in fighting for the marginalised Rohingya community in Rakhine, ignoring calls from Myanmar not to get involved in their ‘internal affairs’.
On Dec 4, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak and his deputy, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, as well as PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, non governmental organisations (NGO) and community and national political figures gathered at the Ummah Solidarity Gathering at the Titiwangsa Stadium in a show of solidarity against the atrocities committed against the Rohingyas.
Najib also vowed to fight against selective treatment, abuse and killings of the predominantly Muslim Rohingya community.
The strong voice of Malaysians attracted the attention of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), prompting the body to call for emergency meetings to discuss the Rohingya issues at its permanent missions in New York, Geneva and Brussels on Dec 14.
Although Yangon remains adamant and denies accusations on the ‘genocide’, the United Nations has called on the Noble Peace Prize Winner, Aung San Suu Kyi to ‘listen to her inner voice’ and halt the violence against the persecuted Rohingya minority.
Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations convention on refugees and migrant workers, but the country is currently home for 151,560 refugees and asylum seekers, including from Myanmar, registered with UNHCR Malaysia.
For the Syrians, Malaysia has delivered humanitarian aid valued at US$240,000 to 100 refugee families in Jordan in February.
Kuala Lumpur has also received the arrival of the second batch of 68 Syrians in May, in addition to the first arrival of 11 Syrians in December last year, which is part of Kuala Lumpur’s pledge to open its doors to 3,000 Syrian migrants over the next three years, starting last year, to help alleviate the refugee crisis.
The end of 2016 also marks the end of Malaysia’s two-year term as United Nations Security Council (UNSC) non-permanent member, the fourth stint since 1965.
While holding the post, Malaysia has effectively contributed to global multilateral efforts in dealing with pressing peace and security, development, humanitarian and human rights situation around the world.
The last 12 months witnessed a host of activities in and outside the country with Najib making trips to several countries, including the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Germany, Japan, Russia, Thailand, China and Japan.
During the visit to China, the Malaysian government sealed a landmark decision to sign 14 business-to-business Memorandums of Understanding, with a total value of RM144 billion.
He was also in Peru in November to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) annual meeting, and met with the outgoing United States President Barack Obama.
Many foreign leaders also visited Malaysia, including Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, OIC secretary-general Iyad Ameen Madani, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Sultan of Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong.
Meanwhile, Prof Dr Mohd Kamarulnizam Abdullah of University Utara Malaysia (UUM) said Asean needed to put more diplomatic pressure on the Myanmar government on the Rohingya issue.
“A special meeting at Asean ministerial level should be called, not to chide Myanmar, but to help the country to address the issue. Myanmar cannot run away from this problem.
“Asean needs no excuse, but explanation and plans of action to reduce tension since Rohingya issue is a slap in the face of Asean.
“It shows Asean’s inability to address gross human rights violation,” said the Dean of the Ghazali Shafie Graduate School of Government.
Echoing similar views is Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.
He said although Asean practiced non-interference and non-intervention policy, Malaysia took a courageous move to address the Rohingya issue on humanitarian grounds.
“Malaysia knew the consequences, but still went ahead in order to voice its concern, and in fact, UN too pressured Myanmar leaders to address the issue,” said the lecturer with the School of Social Sciences. — Bernama