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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Najib should first exhaust diplomacy in Rohingya crisis



We have just seen how PAS and even Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak came together in solidarity with the Rohingya community.
The controversial Rohingya solidarity rally, which saw some 10,000 people congregating at Stadium Mini Titiwangsa recently, was to condemn the way the Myanmar government, in particular Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, handled the Rohingya issue.
At the back of my mind, I was telling myself, at least Myanmar has produced one Nobel Peace Prize winner, but Malaysia none although we have many who qualify to receive their medals of service excellence when fighting for the underprivileged community.
From the video, it was obvious to many of us that Najib appeared very desperate and was trying to reverse his growing unpopularity, something which even the deputy director-general of the Myanmar President’s office, U Zaw Htay could see through.
What matters is sincerity
Najib was trying to show the PAS members that he was with them, but was he really with them at heart, or was he merely trying to win their votes? I foresee that both PAS and Umno will come to an agreement not to have three-cornered fights, and now, Najib needed to win the hearts of the PAS grassroots.
Politics aside, it is his sincerity over the Rohingya issue that is being questioned. This was also a question raised by most people I talked to.
To many of us, the speech has backfired. It has not only soured the bilateral relations between the two countries, but it has raised further questions about Najib’s own integrity in dealing with issues that are important.
By stoking on religious sensitivities involving a community that has allegedly been sidelined by the Myanmar government, Najib was simply saying that he would rather look at the speck of sawdust on someone’s eye, but not notice the log in his own eye.
He is telling us that he is not even aware of the fake news (please read the BBC report) that is being recycled using photographs from other sources. It should have raised some alarm for someone of Najib’s stature before he is seen as taking sides.
We do not need to go as far as Sarawak. Right here in his backyard, the Orang Asli community in Gua Musang is complaining that their rights to a livelihood have been violated. What has Najib done to solve the issue?
Another good example is the numerous issues raised by the Hindraf movement. Was there sincerity in Najib? Best to ask its chairperson, P Waythamoorthy.
If I may suggest, Najib has done nothing to address the concerns of losing the forests which provide a livelihood to the Orang Asli nor has he helped to solve the stateless people in this country. There are thousands of stateless Indians born in this country who are helpless.
So, for Najib to suddenly champion the Rohingya cause now is indeed suspicious. He could have at least offered what Indonesia has extended to both the Myanmar government and the Rohingya community. This is the role and atmosphere of camaraderie that any government wanting to help solve a regional issue has to operate in. Najib has really ruffled a few feathers in Myanmar.
And like the agreement that he signed with the Hindraf back in 2012, the Rohingya issue may not be solved at all.
PAS Youth’s latest action
What baffles me even more is the way how the PAS government in Kelantan is responding to the complaints by the Orang Asli Temiar community in Gua Musang.
The PAS government has all the power to address the concerns raised by the Orang Asli. After all, the land belongs to the state.
Yet, what have we seen? What was the answer by the current menteri besar of Kelantan? How did he address the issue? All that we hear now is that the matter rests on the shoulder of the Forestry Department.
The police have also said that their job was to help facilitate the arrests which was carried out by the Forestry Department. But, on whose instruction does the Forestry Department act? If the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) can be told to stop their investigation into the 1MDB scandal, can the powers-that-be stop the Forestry Department from acting harshly against the Orang Asli, who were merely fighting for their livelihood?
The Forestry Department is a government agency. The land where the Orang Aslis depend their livelihood on belongs to the state. Are we saying that Kelantan state government has no power over what the Forestry Department does?
Indifference is the word that allegedly best describes Ahmad Yaakob’s explanation recently. This is the kind of hypocrisy that many of us condemn. On one hand, PAS and Umno are trying to be jaguh kampung for the Rohingya community in Malaysia; on the other hand, they lack the compassion for the Orang Asli community. This is nothing but double-speak.
And if the Kelantan MB blames the arrest of the Orang Asli on both the enforcement agencies, why then does PAS Youth now see it fit to lodge police reports against a woman lawyer, Siti Kasim for being an instigator? After all, it has nothing to do with PAS and Ahmad Yaakob has claimed that his government is not responsible for the spate of arrests, correct?
Respect the Orang Asli and the forests
God has given us the tropical rainforests, but we destroy it like nobody’s business. Where is the fear of God? Where is the respect for God’s creation?
It is not only Sarawak and Sabah that are fast losing their tropical rainforests, but the land area of tropical rainforests in peninsular Malaysia has also been shrinking, according to a study undertaken by Transparency International-Malaysia.
The civil society has to understand that the Orang Asli community still prefers to live in the rainforests rather than the concrete jungle. It is the place of their birth, and the place that they will find their livelihood.
When logging is done excessively, or carried out without taking into consideration the Orang Asli community, there will always be lawyers who are willing to take up their cause even on a pro bono basis.
Siti Kasim is one such lawyer who has been fighting the cause of the Orang Asli Temiar community in Kelantan. It is not easy for a lawyer to be travelling several hundred kilometres away just to be with the Orang Asli to help them. She could be earning tonnes of money, being who she is.
If anything, Siti should be awarded a medal rather than face arrest, but knowing Siti, she would not mind even being arrested for the sake of the people whose cause she is championing. This would help to further strengthen her case as she helps the Orang Asli fight away the forces that try to destroy their forests.

Siti is a big contrast to what Najib tried to achieve with the Rohingya. This, by the way, is how Najib should champion the cause of the Rohingya by physically going to Myanmar and using all diplomatic channels to handle the issue with care.
Giving credence to a third party like the Islamic State (IS) will only worsen the two countries’ bilateral relations. The Rohingya issue has to be dealt with, without dragging religion in to complicate matters, as pointed out by the Malaysian Buddhist chief high priest, K Sri Dhammaratana.

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in following political developments in the country since 2008.- Mkini

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