By M.S. Anwar | March 27, 2017
It is no longer unknown to the world how different Myanmar regimes, throughout its history, have subjected the Rohingya community to a systematic genocidal process for decades and why. The genocidal process going on for decades silently escalated to a different level when the Myanmar State sponsored violence against the Rohingya people in June, 2012. The genocidal operations by the Myanmar government, unfortunately, have not yet ceased and are still very much on albeit varying in nature from time to time.
The UN organizations, various human rights groups, many human rights experts and activists have called the atrocity crimes against the Rohingya as Crimes against Humanity, Ethnic Cleansing and even Genocide. However, the efforts taken by one leader has well accelerated the slow course of the Rohingya plight and created more pressures on the Myanmar government to address the plight. That leader is none other than the Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak.
What sets the PM Najib apart from other distinguished people that have raised voice against the Rohingya persecution is that he is the first top official of a nation to call the ‘Rohingya Genocide’ a GENOCIDE while addressing thousands of people in a mass rally in Kuala Lumpur on December 4 last year. Never ever before him has a President, PM or any Top Level Official of any other country ‘called a spade a spade’ regarding the Rohingya genocide. Besides, prior to his KL rally, the Malaysian Foreign Ministry officially released statement calling the crimes against the Rohingya as ‘Ethnic Cleansing.’ That itself speaks a volume.
However, the PM has been facing his shares of criticisms on the domestic front in Malaysia after taking up the Rohingya issue. His critics have accused him of exploiting the issue for politically oriented benefits. Let me not mess much in the Malaysian internal politics as this write-up is to express the opinions of the general Rohingya community on the PM Najib taking stand to help them solve their plight. Based on the feedbacks given by the Rohingya people at home and abroad, the overwhelmingly majority of them gives a heartfelt welcome to his initiative and sees it as a silver lining on a dark cloud.
An elderly Rohingya man in Maungdaw I have recently spoken to said “we have been facing genocide for a long time. But no government has voiced for us. Hence, the initiative taken by the Malaysian government gives a hope for living here.”
Likewise, leaders, activists and other influential figures in the Rohingya community believe that the initiative taken by the PM Najib and his government is a win-win situation and there’s nothing wrong in it.
Muhammad Noor, the Managing Director of Rohingya Vision TV and a Rohingya himself, said “PM Najib has been facing undue criticisms after taking up the Rohingya issue. He’s a leader of a nation and so, it’s natural for the people to consider everything he does is politics. Even if he’s doing politics, that’s not a negative politics harming others but rather a positive one helping a people subjected to GENOCIDE.
“I believe singling out his initiative to support the Rohingya out of so many other issues and criticising him for the same is unfair because the Rohingya community itself welcomes his move and are grateful to him for that. We, indeed, appreciate his efforts.
Moreover, the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia are overwhelmingly optimistic about the PM Najib’s efforts to solve the dire Rohingya plight at home, while also being concerned about improvements of their lives in Malaysia. Mr. Hafiz Ahmed, a Rohingya Refugee on his way back home after the KL rally where the Malaysian PM took part on 4th December 2016, said “we today felt very alive as the Prime Minister Najib voiced against the killings of our people in Arakan. This is a ray of hope for us. And with this, we also expect our lives here will become easier than before sooner or later. But we have to be patient.”
Nevertheless, apart from an on-going trial project by the Malaysian government to legalize some 300 Rohingya refugees to utilize them in the country’s labour force, no significant changes on the lives of the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia seem imminent yet. There are legal barriers and laws prohibiting the refugees from having access to basic necessities such as education, healthcare and livelihoods (employments) because Malaysia considers refugees as illegal immigrants because it is not a signatory to 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
Henry Koh, a Malaysian Lawyer currently working for the Fortify Rights, during a meeting with him in late December 2016, said “Malaysia has to ratify 1951 UN Refugee Convention if it indeed intends to improve the lives of the refugees. However, that rectification is not imminent yet. Still Malaysia can do a lot for the refugees especially the children without any ratification as Malaysia became a signatory to 1989 UN Child Rights Convention in 1995.”
On the other hand, some frontline Rohingya activists like Mr. Tun Khin, the President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation in UK (BROUK), consider the efforts being taken by the PM Najib are timely and very crucial in solving the Rohingya crisis. And that it has also made things easier for the activists like him in lobbying various governments across the globe and brought the Rohingya issue once again in the International spotlight.
“He has taken a very big step towards helping the Rohingya and solving the core issue. His efforts are making things easier in our works as well. Sooner or later, I hope things for the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia will also improve”, said Mr. Tun Khin during his recent visit to Malaysia.
The Prime Minister Najib, on his blog post after conversation with Zimbabwean Islamic cleric Mufti Ismail Menk, wrote “I would also like to add that the meeting ended on a sweet note, in which Mufti Menk’s assistant (the gentleman on the left in the picture above) told me that he is Rohingyan and he was there at the flagging-off of the Food Flotilla For Myanmar humanitarian aid mission. He thanked us Malaysians for helping and caring for our Rohingyan brothers and sisters.”
During the PM also talked to Mr. Farudullah, a Rohingya businessman in Malaysia who also closely works with Rohingya Vision TV and attended the meeting with the PM as an assistant of Mufti Ismail Menk” said “the PM himself raised the Rohingya issue in his conversation with Mufti Menk. I was very glad to see his sympathy and concerns for the Muslim Ummah especially in this case, Rohingya. He is very gracious to do that. We are very grateful to him. May Allah bless him!”
All in all, the Rohingya community at home and abroad express heartfelt thanks to the PM Najib and his government for their efforts to improve the Rohingya situation at home (where the core problems like) and in Malaysia; and duly acknowledge their contributions. The Rohingya community is also hopeful that Malaysian government will continue their efforts until sustainable and durable solutions to the Rohingya problems are found.
Last but not the least, the Rohingya community are ever grateful to the Malaysian people at large for welcoming them and giving them refuge when they are being killed and chased out of their motherland by the ruthless tyrants in Myanmar. They are also thankful to those Malaysian lawmakers, MPs, NGOs, activists and journalists relentlessly advocating and working for them for them for decades.
Note: This ‘opinion piece cum thank-you letter’ is based on the feedbacks given by the Rohingya community at home, in Malaysia and other parts of the world and written upon their request.
M.S. Anwar is the editor of Rohingya Vision TV. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org