PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian government must translate its largely religious rhetoric about the stateless Rohingya Muslim community into concrete action, says the DAP’s Charles Santiago.
Commenting on the recent spike in Malaysian interest over the plight of the Rohingya community, the Klang MP, who has frequently spoken on the matter in the past, said that this was because PAS and Umno now shared the platform in terms of religion.
“Malaysia is a lot of hot air and talk; they’re using the Rohingyas for Muslim solidarity but not to really solve the problems,” Santiago told FMT.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had recently announced a major gathering set for Dec 4 that will see Prime Minister Najib Razak and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang leading a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur to express their concerns over the Rohingya issue and hand over a memorandum to the Myanmar embassy.
“We put aside our political differences, and as Muslims we gather to express our concern for our fellow Muslims in Myanmar,” Zahid had said.
Santiago , however, said that the issue had to be viewed in more than religious terms.
“This is not a religious matter alone. It is true that one of the reasons they are being targeted is because they are Muslims, but the fundamental problem is that they do not have citizenship in their own land,” he said.
“If Malaysia is serious about tackling this issue, then we must send a message to Myanmar that you have to give these people citizenship. Malaysia must call an Asean meeting to impress upon Myanmar to give them citizenship rights.”
Santiago also said concrete steps would have to be taken in place of mere rhetoric, if Malaysia was serious about tackling the matter.
The first step, he said, would be to register the Rohingya refugee community already living here in Malaysia, and to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention.
“A good number of Rohingya are in Malaysia right now. The first thing that we have to do is register all of the Rohingya here, which we haven’t done yet.
“If Putrajaya is serious about their refugee status in Malaysia, then just sign the 1951 Refugee Convention.”
Santiago noted that the Rohingya refugee community in Malaysia was currently unable to find employment or education, nor could they afford healthcare.
“The government knows all this and is making noise over it, but is not handling the real issue,” he said.
“Malaysia is spending a lot of money for the Palestinian cause. Why not the Rohingya? They are just using it for political leverage.”