PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad will speak at an event to show solidarity with victims of the Yemen conflict, in what is seen as Putrajaya’s move to distance itself from the previous government’s support for the Saudi-led military campaign blamed for causing a humanitarian crisis there.
The event is supported by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) which had in the past questioned the former government’s tacit support for Riyadh.
Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said it was time for the new government to take a more proactive approach in speaking out for an end to the conflict, which has left at least 8,000 civilians dead and sparked a food emergency due to blockades by neighbouring Arab states.
“In retrospect, the new government brought about a sharp contrast on how we view Yemen,” Razali told FMT.
Last year, the United Nations warned that up to 14 million Yemenis were on the brink of famine, with an aid agency estimating that some 85,000 children under the age of five might have died from malnutrition.
Since 2015, the Saudis have been backing Yemeni government forces against the Houthi rebels, a predominantly Shia Muslim group.
Malaysian troops were deployed in 2015 but recalled after the new government informed Riyadh that Malaysia would no longer be involved in the war.
Razali hailed the decision to pull back Malaysian soldiers, saying they had been deployed without parliamentary consent.
“It’s good that they are back but there must be accountability. The people responsible for this have to explain to the public why this happened,” he said.
Razali, a former Malaysian ambassador to the UN, said the symposium would also call for an inquiry into how Malaysia became part of the Saudi-led military alliance.
The Stand With Yemen symposium and photo exhibition will be held at the International Institute of Islamic Civilisation & Malay World (Istac) in Taman Duta, Kuala Lumpur.
Apart from Suhakam, the other organisers are moderates group G25, vocal Muslim groups Sisters in Islam and Islamic Renaissance Front and army veterans group National Patriots Association. FMT is the official media partner.
Among those expected to speak at the forum are Yemeni activist Abdul Rahman Al Maamari who runs an organisation called Tangible Association for Yemeni Refugees, and terrorism expert James M Dorsey who is attached with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
Also on the panel is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
Razali said it was unfortunate that Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah would not attend the programme, despite his name being listed earlier.
“We can understand that he has other priorities but we will go to the foreign ministry at the right time to make our point to them,” he said.
“Unlike the previous government which dared not say anything or lacked the ability to speak up on this, this government can talk to Saudi Arabia,” he added.
A donation drive has been launched in conjunction with the event, to help Yemenis caught in the war.
Donations to Global Peace Mission Malaysia, a group involved in channelling aid to Yemen, can be made to the following bank accounts: 5642 2161 1602 (Maybank) and 1402 3010 02922 4 (Bank Islam).