It is unconscionable of the Malaysian authorities to have turned away a boatful of persecuted Rohingya refugees off the country’s coast recently.
These are desperate people who fled their homeland in search of a sanctuary – only to find themselves being pushed by countries in this region back into the high seas, which often turn into gruesome watery graveyards.
On humanitarian grounds, the Malaysian government should have offered temporary shelter to these sea-weary men, women and children on board that fateful vessel, while maintaining enough precautions against any coronavirus outbreak among these people.
Again, the call to Asean countries to come to the table to deliberate on concerted measures to save the lives of innocent people who are seeking a safe refuge, is made.
On our home ground, it is disturbing to see the Malaysian government’s insistence that it will not provide food aid to the thousands of migrants and refugees holed up in their homes under the enhanced movement control order.
This is appalling – as how else are these affected residents going to get their food, if foreign embassies are not interested or able to help these migrants and refugees?
Are these people less than human? To expect cash-strapped voluntary groups and NGOs to raise enough funds to help the thousands of affected people is surely unfair.
Equally reprehensible is the attitude among some Malaysians who hurl toxic remarks at the oppressed Rohingya and even migrant workers who are confined to their cramped homes.
It is most disturbing to note that the ordeal faced by these suffering people has brought out the worst in some Malaysians at a time when human compassion and global solidarity are much needed.
It is almost as if xenophobic Malaysians do not care that it involves a matter of life or death, especially for the persecuted Rohingya.
What is the point of religious rhetoric, if we do not put it into practice or if we deny compassion to those most in need? Or for that matter #kitajagakita – which is a noble initiative, but must in practice embody the values of humanity, whose compassion should transcend Malaysian borders.
Such racist attitudes reflect deep-seated resentment among Malaysians towards refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers who have lived in our midst over the years. Why is there such resentment when these workers have toiled and contributed tremendously to the nation’s economy in so many different ways.
Refugees and migrants must be assisted so that we can salvage our own humanity. Malaysians in general have a great humanitarian spirit, and in this time of a global crisis, we should continue to manifest it to whoever needs our help.
At a time when we need to be looking out for each other, we need to remind ourselves that our humanity and the humanity of all those affected by global or regional crises – including migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers – are interlinked.
Aliran executive committee
26 April 2020