Speak up against anti-Rohingya hate speech, says activist

An activist says Rohingya people are fleeing refugee camps in Bangladesh because they are unlivable. (AP pic)

PETALING JAYA: Political leaders and civil society have been urged to speak up against the wave of anti-Rohingya hate speech and threats made against Rohingya activists.

A human rights activist, John Quinley III, who has documented human rights abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India, said the current campaign against the Rohingya was cause for concern.

Malaysia had been supportive of the Rohingya for years and had shown solidarity with their cause.

John Quinley III

However former prime minister Najib Razak recently backed Malaysia’s action to push back a boat load of Rohingya from landing on Malaysian shores.

Quinley said the Rohingya should be allowed to land. The action to push them out to sea was “a death sentence”, he said.

He called for action by all countries in Asean as they had done to coordinate rescue efforts in 2015 when there was a major exodus of Rohingya people by boat.

He also spoke on the role of the media, saying journalists and media outlets should report the truth and hear from all voices, including those of refugees to get a balanced story.

“The media should not be propagating hate speech, violence or anti-immigrant policies as these are harmful to lives on the ground.”

Empathise with refugees

Quinley, who works with a human rights organisation called Fortify Rights, said people should empathise with the Rohingya who have been persecuted by the Myanmar military, declared stateless, and made victims of genocide.

“The Myanmar military has been persecuting not just Rohingya but other ethnic groups including the Kachin, Shan, and Karen,” he said.

Quinley said he had been to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to refugee resettlement camps, and said the refugees from there were fleeing because their lives were restricted, with little access to formal education, a livelihood, and freedom of movement curtailed.,

Meanwhile, Che Amran, a member of nashid group Raihan, which had previously sang in a 2017 charity concert for the Rohingya refugees, said there was no need for anyone to attack the community.

Malaysia and Malaysians, he said, have been protecting and supporting the community.

Those who want to help the community, he said, should do so according to their capabilities and not seek publicity in doing so.

“If you do not want to help it is okay, but do not say inappropriate and negative things (about the community). During Ramadan especially, we should watch our words and actions.”

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.