Unity for Rohingya: Politics or true concern?

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PETALING JAYA: A political scientist regards the recent PAS and Umno protest against the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar to be more of a showcase of their newfound political alliance than a show of concern over a humanitarian crisis.

“Instead of addressing the Rohingya issue, the rally looked more like an attempt to showcase Umno and PAS coming together and working as a political pact rather than a coming together of two parties in the name of human rights,” said Faisal Syam Hazis of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“If that’s the intention, I think the opposition has the right to question their motives and the kind of image they are trying to portray for themselves.”

Faisal said that there were many pressing national issues that required cooperation beyond partisan politics, such as the plight of the Orang Asli in PAS-governed Kelantan.

He said Umno and PAS should work together to address problems faced by the Orang Asli, whose livelihoods had been affected by logging activities.

“Of course the Rohingya crisis is important,” he said. “But at the same time, there are issues too in your backyard that require attention.”

Another political scientist, Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia, said there was nothing wrong for rival political parties to come together on the Rohingya issue.

He said all political organisations, regardless of ideology, must show concern over humanitarian issues. “The Rohingya crisis should not be solely an Islamic cause because it is clearly a humanitarian crisis,” he added.

Awang Azman Pawi, an associate professor at Universiti Malaya, agreed with Sivamurugan. He said the plight of the Rohingya should not be politicised as it was a humanitarian issue.

“The question is why didn’t the motion to discuss the Rohingya crisis make it to Parliament?” he said.

He was referring to a motion that Raja Kamarul Bahrin of Parti Amanah Negara attempted to table in the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 22. The speaker rejected it.

Awang Azman also said the government must look into the plight of all refugees instead of restricting its interest to the Rohingya.