While we cannot ignore the plight of the Rohingyas, we should not also forget the plight of Malaysians who are experiencing the brunt of the government’s crackdown, writes Chris Chong.
The Rohingyas – who are they? Why are they willing to cross the open seas in search of sanctuary away from their homeland?
Francis Loh’s article gives a background to this group of people and why they have fled their homeland. Mustafa K Anuar reflects on the dire circumstances that have forced so many to resort to desperate means to escape.
The recent large-scale exodus of the Rohingyas through the Andaman Sea using densely packed rickety boats have sparked a humanitarian crisis in this region as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia reacted by initially denying the Rohingyas permission to land in their borders.
And in cyberspace, public opinion was sharply divided as to whether the Malaysian government should allow the Rohingyas to find sanctuary here. For some, allowing the Rohingyas into the country would only bring economic and social burdens to society.
But Melanie Yong argues that such allegations simply reflect a misperception which is made worse by the fact that we are throwing away our humanity by ignoring the plight of this people and hurling them back to the seas, condemning them to certain death.
It was therefore a tremendous relief for many caring Malaysians when the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia announced on 20 May 2015 their willingness to provide temporary shelter to the 7,000-plus Rohingyas and Bangladeshi migrants reportedly stranded on boats at sea for several months now. A number of Aliran members participated in a vigil at the Penang Esplanade on 22 May 2015 to express solidarity with the people on the boats which was organised by the Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign.
Many in Malaysia, both ordinary and prominent citizens, had called on the government to take a humanitarian position and allow the stranded refugees to land. Thankfully, these pleas did not fall on deaf ears. Civil society and NGOs should continue to push for humanitarian aid to be extended to these refugees who are in dire need.
While we cannot ignore the plight of the Rohingyas, we should not also forget the plight of Malaysians who are experiencing the brunt of the government’s crackdown using (abusing) the Sedition Act and other coercive laws to deny Malaysians their fundamental right to express themselves, to assemble, and to associate as enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. You can read our introduction to Aliran’s Crackdown Watch. You can access the Watch list here.
26 May 2015