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LETTER | Curb rising tide of hatred against Rohingyas

LETTER | We refer to the increasing xenophobic sentiments and calls for violence against the Rohingyas that have been widely circulating in social media as of late.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) finds it concerning that such content is making the rounds seemingly unabated. The government, despite its insistence on monitoring social media sites for supposedly “inciting statements”, is quiet and not proactive when the Rohingyas are the ones subject to attack.

Investigations seemingly instead are focused on those who are bringing the integrity of the government into question.

The Rohingyas are a truly vulnerable group; they are refugees forced to flee their country for fear of their lives, undocumented with no financial stability due to being unable to work who now not only have to deal with harassment from unscrupulous enforcement authorities but also now must deal with the rising xenophobic sentiment from the populace.

There is a risk that if this sentiment is not quelled, they will face real threats of harm by people who mistakenly view them as threats to Malaysian society.

Unwarranted attacks

It is an undeniable fact that Rohingyas are here on our shores. Of the 182,990 refugees and asylum seekers that are currently here, 58 percent of those numbers are Rohingyas. Therefore, there is a need for the government to address the unwarranted attacks that they are facing, lest they fester into something irreversible.

Despite Malaysia not ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention, it has historically allowed refugees in our countries on humanitarian grounds. The government has a longstanding cooperation with UNHCR in facilitating asylum-seekers and refugees for resettlement to their destination country.

As such, it is incumbent on the government to protect the safety of all asylum-seekers and refugees in Malaysia on the same humanitarian ground, for, if not, then we are just further subjecting them to harm that they have fought to escape from their country of origin.

It bears remembering that asylum-seekers and refugees are not here of their own volition, but simply out of necessity. They are not foreign enemies, and this narrative must not be allowed to continue.

Circulating online

As such, the government must intervene to stifle the active campaign circulating online to vilify the Rohingyas to protect them from those who wish to bring them actual harm.

The outrageous xenophobic content being spread around and the call to violence that usually accompanies it must be dealt with swiftly by Malaysian Multimedia and Multimedia Communication (MCMC).

Should it escalate to actual risk of physical harm, the police must intervene and criminal action taken against those responsible. This endeavour would be more worthwhile than expending resources to hound people who purportedly injure the reputation and integrity of the government.

ZAID MALEK is director of Lawyers for Liberty.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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