Malaysia should extend its role beyond providing aid to Rohingya refugees in the country, as well as those still under persecution in Myanmar, local filmmaker Mahi Ramakrishnan said today.
Mahi, who is also an activist, said this was because there needs to be an overall solution that could help resolve the long-standing issues surrounding refugees.
"I knew the prime minister (Najib Abdul Razak) had made a fiery speech and used the word genocide to describe what happened (in Rakhine state).
"This is brilliant," said Mahi, adding that however, more needs to be done to pressure the Myanmar government into putting a stop to the persecution, as well as to introduce more legal protection for all refugees in Malaysia.
She was referring to Najib's remark during a solidarity rally with some 10,000 people last December, in which he condemned the "genocide" of Muslim Rohingya.
Mahi was speaking during a screening of her documentary "Bodies for Sale" which captured the abuses faced by Rohingya refugees at the hands of traffickers, en route to Malaysia.
"It is commendable that the Malaysian PM has broken ranks with Asean's no-interference policy over the Rohingya issue. But the question is what now?
"He (Najib) really must take the lead to lobby all his other colleagues (in Asean) to reprimand Myanmar to reign in its military and stop the killings," she said.
This was on top of lobbying the United Nations Human Rights Council to launch an inquiry into the atrocities committed by Myanmar's military Junta against the Rohingya, she said.
"First and foremost, Myanmar soldiers have to stop killing. To do that, constant pressure must be placed on them.
"The moment the killing stops, the Rohingya will stop fleeing," she said.
For Malaysia to do otherwise, Mahi noted, would render Najib's speech as nothing more than a "political charade" to shore up support for himself.
In cautioning that the refugees should not be made a pawn of political games, Mahi said Najib have shown great courage in taking a stand against the violence and persecution.
"But at the end of the day by providing aid, you will not stop the persecution, you will not stop the killings.
"We are now (also) talking about domestic policies in Malaysia which must change, so that not only the Rohingya, but all other refugees can have rights in Malaysia," she said.
She cited, among others, the government's pilot project to provide jobs for 300 Rohingya refugees.
Aside from putting pressure on the Myanmar government, Mahi said domestic policies are necessary to ensure that the problems in Myanmar will not happen among the refugee communities in Malaysia.
"In Burma (Myanmar) there is so much divide and rule that one community which is being persecuted cannot identify with the suffering of another community.
"We do not want the same mess to happen among the refugee communities here," said Mahi.
'Policy for all refugees'
Klang MP Charles Santiago, who is also chairperson of Asian Parliamentarians for Human Rights, also echoed the call for Malaysia to introduce policies to assist all refugees.
At present, he said the government appears to be "cherry picking" when it comes to championing the plight of the Rohingya.
The Malaysian government had recently launched an aid mission for Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh, led by Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.
The aid ship Nautical Aliya left Port Klang on Feb 4 carrying some 2,300 tonnes of aid cargo and The Star yesterday reported that it had docked in Chittagong Port, Bangladesh.- Mkini