Aid for Rohingya costing taxpayers millions, says foreign minister

Rohingya refugees in a camp at Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh. (Bernama pic)

GOMBAK: Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah says the government is committed to supporting displaced Rohingya refugees but warns that humanitarian aid is costing millions in taxpayers’ money.

He said great effort had been made to send aid to Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh as well as here in the country, but that no solution is in sight.

“We are concerned that more people will be affected, and the cost will go up.

“I am not saying we want to be calculative,” he added. “(But) a lot of money has been spent, and we could have used it for something else.”

Speaking at a forum on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other accountability mechanisms at International Islamic University Malaysia here today, he said taxpayers’ money is being spent all because one country is involved in genocide.

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah (middle) at a forum on the International Criminal Court in Gombak today.

He added that Canada and Qatar had pledged millions to help the Rohingya.

At a press conference later, he was asked if Putrajaya would take the case to ICC. To this, he said he would wait for a report from the forum.

He also said talks on repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar had been ongoing since November, with no progress yet.

Over 100,000 Rohingya had come to Malaysia, and more might enter the country if Myanmar does not put an end to the issue, he added.

He nonetheless assured that Putrajaya is doing its best to push for a stop to the conflict, and for justice to be upheld and citizenship reinstated for the Rohingya.

He said Asean countries would uphold their policy of non-interference but had invited Myanmar to discuss closure to the issue through constructive engagement.

Former home minister Syed Hamid Albar, who was also present at the forum, said the ICC was an avenue of consideration if Myanmar does not take steps to solve the issue.

He said the issue of repatriation and reinstatement of citizenship for the Rohingya should be looked into, and that Myanmar should practise inclusive democracy.