PETALING JAYA: PAS appears to be the lone voice from the ruling coalition speaking out against xenophobic comments targeting the Rohingya refugee community in Malaysia, with leaders from the Islamist party warning the public of an agenda to spark a fresh round of refugee crises in Southeast Asia.
PAS central committee member Riduan Mohamad Nor also claimed that “cyber-troopers” linked to some political parties had been spreading propaganda against the Rohingya refugees in the hope of pitting Muslims against each other.
He also criticised the former administration under Pakatan Harapan for allowing tens of thousands of Chinese nationals to remain in Malaysia.
“This wealthy cluster of foreigners comes with money, unlike the ethnic Rohingya who are penniless and have no basic education,” said Riduan.
His comments come amid a spate of hate speech on social media aimed at the Rohingya community, after rights activists criticised Malaysia for turning away a boat full of refugees. It was reported that more than two dozen Rohingya in the boat died of hunger after their boat was refused permission by Thai and Malaysian authorities, before they were rescued by Bangaladesh’s border patrol.
Yesterday, eyebrows were raised when an NGO spokesman appeared on a radio channel of national news agency Bernama, attacking the Rohingya refugee community as dirty and ill-mannered.
“They are Rohingya ‘bukit’ (hill), sakai from where, even our Orang Asli have good manners. They (Rohingya) have a problem with manners and culture, this race, most of them cheat and carry out illegal activities,” Halim Ishak told Bernama Radio, drawing criticism from Muslim activist Azmi Abdul Hamid who warned against following “the narrative of the Myanmar regime”.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Malaysia estimates there are some 101,000 Rohingya refugees in the country, who fled persecution from the Myanmar regime which does not recognise them as citizens.
Their plight was highlighted after several parts of Kuala Lumpur in which they were concentrated came under Covid-19 lockdown, raising fears that many families would face starvation as the Myanmar embassy would not help them.
Riduan said the Muslim world had long stopped looking to Arab countries as examples, and that non-Arab nations such as Malaysia and Turkey had emerged to play the role of check and balance.
But he said Muslims in Malaysia had also become susceptible to emotions and had no qualms about fighting among themselves.
Another PAS leader Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi, who heads the party’s international bureau, said the public should understand the circumstances that made the Rohingya refugees and victims of human trafficking.
He said while Putrajaya must be vigilant about Malaysia’s borders, there should be a long-term plan to address the refugee crisis in a humane manner.
He also urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to finance the humanitarian efforts for the Rohingya.
Khairuddin Aman Razali meanwhile warned of a psychological war on social media with the aim of covering up the massacres of the Rohingya and undermining international support for them.
“Every race has its good and bad, those who are good-mannered and those who are not, but we must help anyone who is oppressed. It’s just a question of how,” said the plantation industries and commodities minister.
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