MALAYSIA ASEAN/APEC LEAD CONSUMERIST DR JACOB GEORGE CALLS FOR AN HOLISTIC APPROACH TO THE ROHINGYA PLIGHT!

THE ROHINGYA TRAGEDY – WORKING TOWARDS AN HOLISTIC APPROACH

It is not uncommon to hear dear friend’s senior diplomats, political analysts and observers from ASEAN and APEC, alleging that Malaysia, practice a very strange policy of foreign affairs!

There is a perception either rightly or wrongly, that we are only vocal and supportive, if the tragedy involves Muslims!

And in political comatose, when it involves others, even when there is data and evidence, of pure unadulterated carnage and the horror of attacks on minorities or basically genocide unleashed!

There is nothing new about these barbaric attacks!

It is well documented that in the past 150 years, tens of millions of men, women and children have lost their lives in genocide or mass atrocities.

Millions have been tortured, raped or forced from their homes.

There have been economic loss, properties razed to the ground and communities displaced or taken into modern day slavery and the sex trade!

The past genocides and mass atrocities described below represent just some of the historic examples that serve to remind us that we cannot be racists or selective in our responses to address injustices and genocide, wherever it happens!

Just to jolt our foreign affairs intelligentsia, the ‘boys on that hill’, what were our stand in Armenia, or with The Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Syria, or Yemen today, tragically, where there is a war forgotten in the shadows of Syria and the IS barbarism?

Of late, we are getting an overdose of the Rohingya issue!

Of course, our politicians from both divides and certain NGOs sharing the same DNA, seem to suddenly emerge from comatose and come out with their platitudes, patronizing and simplistic answers of the plight of the Rohingyas!

Be sensitive certainly, but, one cannot and should not forget or overlook historical facts in political expediency, because it serves our present domestic politics or may galvanize communal support for GE14?

We must remember that the Rohingya, are of Bengali stock and native to Bangladesh.

They migrated into Rakhine in Myanmar in large numbers over the past decades, especially during the time when Bangladesh was called East Pakistan.

The well documented autocracies of the Pakistan government were the root cause of their migration into Rakhine.

It is well documented that the military regime in Myanmar at that time allowed them on humanitarian grounds.

Initially all was well but with growing communal fanaticism, religious extremism, doctrination and hatred they began to ask for autonomy!

Political analysts believe when Myanmar military handed over power to civilian government recently as to steer the nation to tenets of democracy, and open up Myanmar to the world, the Rohingya raised more demands that infuriated the government and the setting up the ARSA, a terrorist organization allegedly by terrorist sponsoring countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Qatar changed the landscape!

Having said that, what should we have done?

Malaysia should send a high powered inter-faith delegation and well known NGO leaders to meet with the powers that be, to get a wholesome picture from the ground!

Some of us have direct links with well-respected Aung San Suu Kyi and can assist the process with zero politicking involved!

In many instances in this case and others, this proactive engagement did not happen and we have been selective and played on emotions and religion, two dangerous cocktails and once you weaponize religion it will create havoc both sides of the borders!

We have already seen these at work in Indonesia, in Syria, Iraq and again in the Philippines!

There could be terrorist ‘sleepers and operatives’ in the country and so far only the dedicated professionalism shown by our security and intelligentsia apparatus, have curtailed any domestic attacks!

While we thank them we cannot take chances as alluded to, by our deputy home minister!

On the other hand, there must be humanitarian intervention and assistance given but it has to be professional, organized, addressing the root cause and providing solutions in the ASEAN spirit as not to create hostility or destability!

The issue here is complex, messy without an all-round silver bullet solution.

We should not further embarrass ourselves using religious lens and formulas, when trying to introduce a comprehensive solution, which will protect the rights, interest and future of the Rohingyas – the community at the epicenter of this conflict and with respect for the sovereignty of the Myanmar government and nation!