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Malaysians generally support humanitarian assistance for Rohingya

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – May 21, 2015: Malaysians in general appears to be supportive of  the government’s decision to provide temporary shelter to the Rohingya refugees who are currently floundering on boats at sea.

It was reported yesterday that both Malaysian and Indonesian government had agreed to provide the refugees with assistance and temporary shelter, provided that resettlement and repatriation process would be done in one year by the international community.

Today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak ordered the Royal Malaysian Navy and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to assist in bringing the refugees to shore for shelter.

The MOLE noted a large number of positive responses from netizens supporting the government’s humanitarian efforts.

Odi Rex commented on the report by a news portal about the government’s decision: “At last, a move toward the right direction. But have to be wary about the one year limit. It is likely going to take much longer to process these refugees and send them to countries that will accept them. It would not look good on us if we keep them in camps for too long”.

Steven Chai commented on the report by a news portal about the government’s decision: “This is the right decision. They are finally treated as human being. Give them some training, they can absorb into our labour force”.

Roger 5201 commented on the report by a news portal about the government’s decision: “Why stress “temporarily” when there are already 45,000 Rohingyas in our country? Since the majority of them are Muslims, perhaps it is appropriate that Zakat funds be channeled to help these refugees. All said, the decision to give these refugees temporarily shelter is a good decision. God speed”.

However, prominent blogger Helen Ang felt that the decision was a wrong move by the government.

In her blog posting, Rohingya boat people – 60 percent poll respondents don’t want them, Helen warned of the negative repercussions that awaits such a decision.

“He (Najib) will have to pay a heavy political cost if he continues to disregard the public’s voices that are rejecting these illegal immigrants,” Helen wrote in her blog posting.

According to the blogger’s public opinion poll, a total of 574 from 946 voters agreed that the Rohingya boat people should not be allowed to stay in Malaysia.

Plus, some of the regular commenters in her blog, tebing tinggi remarked @ 2015/05/19 at 11:20 am, “I think we have enough pendatang (immigrants) problem, why adding more?”

But the criticisms were not limited on Helen’s blog alone, though few, The MOLE did note several negative remarks made by netizens on the matter.

Facebook user Gobi Subramaniam commented: “Came ashore temporarily? Good luck getting them back into their boats once they have tasted what Malaysia (and Indonesia) has to offer. These refugees going to do what all illegal immigrants have been doing in the past years – they going to take advantage of Malaysians’ and their hospitality and fight to stay as long as possible”.

Awaken commented on the report by a news portal about the government’s decision: “These people have committed a crime of cheat under the laws (Bangladeshi corporate Rohingya as refugee), they have misused ‘Refugee’ in unfaithful manner. We should expel them (included those residence) so their people can respect our law here and at their country”.

Despite the negative criticisms, the government’s decision gained accolades from humanitarian activists as they holds the opinion that it was timely for the government to do so.

Conceding that it was the right move Yayasan Salam chairman Datuk Ahmad Abdul Talib viewed that it was important for the government to convince the Myanmar government to play a role in solving the issue.

“For now I can only say that this is an encouraging development from humanitarian aspect but everyone including me is waiting for details on how this is going to be done,” said Ahmad.

International Movement for A Just World president Dr Chandra Muzaffar calls for the government to expedite their search and rescue efforts of the refugees.

Chandra told The MOLE that to prevent further influx of Rohingya refugees it is vital for all countries in the regions to collectively cooperate with the Myanmar government in crushing smuggling rackets.

He viewed that government must simultaneously rescue the migrants and crush the smuggling rackets.

“The smuggling rackets are the one responsible in bringing people from Bangladesh and Myanmar into neighbouring countries.

“In order to smash them we need to have good intelligence so it is imperative for us to cooperate with both Myanmar and Bangladesh governments.

“We must destroy them before they get people onto their boat because once they have managed to sail into the sea then it gets more difficult to deal with them,” said Chandra.

Chandra also proposed that the Bangladeshi nationals who are on the same boats with the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to be repatriated as soon as possible.

He was of the opinion that their circumstances are different from the Rohingya refuges who were being prosecuted in their own country.

“We have to repatriate them, send them back and also discuss their situation with the Bangladeshi government so that we can know why they left their country this way.

“If it is due to lack of economic opportunity then maybe we can find ways, either through bilateral or collective means to provide some assistance to elevate economic development in their country.

“As for the Rohingya refugees, if we can at least negotiate with the Myanmar government to remove the restrictions currently imposed onto the Rohingya in Rachine it would be excellent but the real goal is to have the Myanmar government to restore their citizenships,” Chandra opined.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.