By Ahmad Soffian Mohd Shariff
The Malaysian social media has been flooded by calls to deport the Rohingya community in Malaysia. Comments fuelled with anti-immigrant sentiments are being posted daily as more and more negative post are uploaded by netizens. With the current government is busy battling the Coronavirus pandemic, majority of Malaysians are expressing their mistrust of the Rohinya community that arrives on our shores because of the persecution they faced in their country by both the religious community and the Burmese government.
It is worth noting that Malaysia are not strangers to refugees as we have helped the Vietnamese flee from their war torn country, the Bosnians during their clashes with the Serbs and many others. However, this time, it has shown that most of Malaysians had enough of the antics of some of the Rohingya’s in this country, which has resulted in a mass hate comments on the internet and in the real world.
According to a news report by The Star Newspaper, there are more than 100,000 refugees from the Rohingya cluster are currently residing in this country. Even though there are cases their entry was refused by countries such as Thailand and Indonesia, Malaysia has never refuse any boats coming from the largest stateless population on Earth, on the basis of humanity and to safeguard the sanctity of human lives.
However, on April 16, 2020, the Malaysian government turned away several boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya refugees, as they only did this because of fear that the large number of undocumented migrants shall bring more Covid-19 cases into the country. This is before the authorities gave them food and water so that they might survive their journey to another country that are willing to accept them.
Although this act drew criticism from many parties, especially the United Nations and some human rights organisation. We must understand, that the Malaysian government need to protect the safety and wellbeing of its people first. The action of turning away these boats while might not sit well with international communities and human rights activist was necessary to protect the people of Malaysia.
On April 24, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, stated that Malaysia had already taken in many refugees, including during his time as Malaysia’s premier, however it is now time for the country to put its people first and not to carry the burden of accommodating the Rohingyas alone.
I would very much agree with Datuk Seri Najib Razak as we have done all we can for these stateless people. As the largest refugee group in this country, the Rohingyas has become a bane not only towards the economy of this country, but also adversely affecting the social structure of Malaysia.
Their dependency of aids from the government and actions that does not conform to our culture can’t be easily be overlooked. The engagement of some Rohingyas with criminal activities in this country does not help their cause in convincing Malaysians that they are here to be helped by the Malaysian government and its people.
It is worth noting that just a week after Malaysia announced our first tier of the Movement Restriction Order (MRO), a government nurse coming back from her duty in a local hospital was subjected to the most horrific of experience as she was rob at knifepoint by a Rohingya refugee. It was lucky that she was not hurt, but this is one of the straws that broke the camel’s back, as Malaysians had lost their patience and had enough of the Rohingya community.
One may say that criminals may come in all races or religion, however, we must understand that the Rohingyas are not properly regulated and their stay here, without any means to support themselves legally, will contribute to more crimes being committed in the future.
With that being said, I understand that not all Rohingyas are criminals or inclined to do criminal activities. Most of them are peaceful people and we have seen testimonies of non-government organisations that work closely with the community in Malaysia. However, with the current situation that we are facing, our intentions of helping these people may proves to be too much for the country to handle.
A more prominent solution need to be achieve when dealings with the plight of the Rohingyas. Maybe it is time for the international community to look into this matter extensively. World leaders, especially from the South East Asian countries need to have an in depth discussion on how to deal with this situation.
We know for a fact that historically the Rohingya and their Rakhine countrymen fought each other during the World War 2, where the Rohingya’s supported the British while the Rakhine supported the Japanese Imperial Army. The hatred between these two groups were not quashed after the end of World War 2 and was continued as the Rohingya’s wanted an autonomous state, taking a large part of the land from the Buddhist Rakhine majority. This issue has been a thorn on both sides of the groups, even after both the Japanese and the British has left their country for more than 60 years.
The only viable solution is for The Rohingya to be brought back to Myanmar, this can only be done if the government of Myanmar would guarantee their safety upon returning to their homeland. A reconciliation process must be done for the Rohingyas to be repatriated back to Myanmar, and they as a community must also play their part to ensure that they will follow any conditions set up by their home country. This also means if the preconditions of their repatriation would mean they have to assimilate with the majority of their countrymen, then so be it.
For the sake of humanity, it’s time for South East Asian countries and the international community in the spirit of camaraderie, to resolve the plight of the Rohingya as soon as possible, once and for all. For now, let the Malaysian government handles the situation as it deemed fit and for us Malaysians to put our faith in the government.