Malaysia has again walked the talk in expressing support and providing aid in terms of the humanitarian aspect.
It was the first country to establish a field hospital for the Rohingya community. This RM3.5-million facility was set up in Ukhiya, a 10-minute walk from the main Rohingya refugee camps in Kutupalong and Bhalukali in Bangladesh, and started operation on Dec 1.
The hospital is the size of a standard district hospital in Malaysia and is fully equipped, including for orthopaedic surgery.
Prime Minister Najib Razak reportedly said the hospital would create "a very strong presence of Malaysia".
“This is probably the biggest help that any other country can also do. I have said before that on the Rohingya issue, we are at the forefront, not only in terms of diplomacy at various fora but also in the form of assistance,” he had said.
The help from Malaysia does not stop just at building the facility. Malaysian leaders and officials have visited the displaced Rohingya. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (photo) went on a site visit to the camp in October before the field hospital was built.
Ahmad Zahid's presence also gave a clear message to the world that Malaysia was serious about the issue and desired a long-term solution to the ethnic persecution of the Rohingya in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
In the same month, the government also launched the third ‘My Country, Concerned, Humanitarian Mission for Rohingya’ which saw 56.6 tonnes of food and essential items handed over to the Rohingya refugees on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
In February, the Malaysian government shipped 1,700 tonnes of food, medicine, clothes and blankets to the refugees via a vessel, the Nautical Aliya, which headed to Chittagong after off-loading some 500 tonnes of relief supplies at a port in Yangon, Myanmar.
This mission, dubbed ‘Food Flotilla For Myanmar’ and organised by the 1Malaysia Putera Club (KP1M) and the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisations (Mapim), also took along 195 volunteers from 12 countries who comprised medical personnel, teachers, local and international media practitioners and members of NGOs.
The presentation of aid to people in crises came not only from the government. In November, 13 Malaysian MPs went to the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, to hand over some 25 tonnes of food supplies to Malaysian NGOs to be distributed to Rohingya refugees at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp, about 35km from Cox's Bazar.
Help for the Rohingya refugees also came from the MyCorps team under the Youth and Sports Ministry, where some 40 volunteers consisting of university graduates and youths from NGOs travelled to the country from Aug 20 to Oct 18 for various kinds of humanitarian work, including building schools and basic facilities.
So far, more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh where they live in refugee camps.
Malaysia's commitment to helping the Rohingya community does not stop at just sending aid.
The highlight came after Najib raised the matter at his meeting with US President Donald Trump and US officials. This was reflected in the joint statement released by Malaysia and the US following bilateral discussions, where they called on the Myanmar government to end the violence against innocents and ensure that humanitarian relief reached the victims.
In fact, Malaysia has been vocal on this issue. In December last year, Najib led a rally to protest the “ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya community in Rakhine State in a move to bring the matter to the attention of world leaders so as to end the suffering of the community.
The rally was successful because it led to a meeting of Asean foreign ministers on Dec 19 last year and an extraordinary meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Jan 19, where Najib vowed that it was time to end the crisis.
Apart from the issue of the Rohingya community, Malaysia had also played a role in the Palestine issue, ending the calendar this year with a massive rally here led by Najib himself. The rally of solidarity with the Palestinians protested against the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Addressing the rally, Najib stressed that Malaysia would continue to champion the issue through various diplomatic channels, in the political arena and by way of financial contributions.
Good things never come easy though. Malaysia's sole representative in the “Women's Boat to Gaza” mission, Dr Fauziah Mohd Hassan, was forced to face a critical moment after the humanitarian ship, Zaytouna-Oliva, she was on was detained by the Israeli authorities in October.
Zaytouna-Oliva set sail to Gaza from Barcelona on Sept 15, carrying 13 female activists from 12 countries, on a mission to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza after the land routes to the strip were blocked by Israel and Egypt.