ADUN SPEAKS | Politicians in Malaysia have made use of the Rohingya people for their own self-interest.
There is no unilateral solution to address the plight of the Rohingya, the ethnic group declared stateless by the Myanmar government.
Designating a temporary place for them in Malaysia along our borders as suggested by some is not going to work in terms of finding a long term solution.
A long term solution can only be found if there is some kind of attempt to take a multilateral approach with the involvement of Myanmar, Bangladesh, the United Nations and perhaps with our limited involvement.
First and foremost, the Myanmar government must restore citizenship to them. This is what various parties must impress upon the authorities in Myanmar.
The Rohingya might be termed as refugees so as to get the protection of the United Nation High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) or by the receiving countries. However, they might not be straightforward destitute refugees but more accurately economic refugees. A thin line separates between the two, something that the UNHCR might find difficult to ascertain.
If the movement of these people is predicated on the basis of intermediaries or agents' involvements in the transportation of refugees upon payment, then this is something to investigate.
There is nothing natural for the Rohingya to choose Malaysia as their destination apart from the fact that the majority of the population are Muslims who might have some sympathy for their plight.
If this is the case, why are they not turning to Indonesia, a bigger Muslim country and its sprawling islands that could easily accommodate them? Yet they choose to defy the odds by braving the seas to come to Malaysia, with some being accommodated while others have been turned away.
It must be remembered that there is already a notable presence of the community here especially in Kuala Lumpur. Some are saying that the Rohingya control and manage some sections of the market in Selayang.
It is no coincidence that the presence of the Rohingya here acts as a powerful stimulus for establishing contacts with those in the Cox's Bazar region of Bangladesh to plan their trips to Malaysia.
The Rohingya people simply do not decide on the spur of the moment to leave for Malaysia. There must be certain intervening variables to bring these people to their chosen destinations.
Thus, a series of demand and pull factors operate for the eventual execution of the operation that is full of hazards along the way.
Malaysia as a choice destination for the Rohingya cannot mainly operate on the fact that it is a predominantly Muslim country.
The present controversy over the call to expel the Rohingya community from here would not have risen if some politicians did not use their plight to beef up political support for themselves.
Politicians, particularly those from Umno and PAS, have played politics with the Rohingya.
Four years back, former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and PAS President Hadi Awang went overboard in taking up the cause of the Rohingya, not on humanitarian grounds but from a religious angle.
It was just like former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad who championed the cause of the Bosnians, again not on humanitarian grounds but on a religious ground portraying that he was one of the leaders of the Muslim world.
Thus, the sympathy expressed by Malaysian politicians for the Rohingya is not so much for their wellbeing but for a political reason.
In the last four years, a new government was voted into power before it was unfortunately deposed within not even two years.
With the Covid-19 pandemic around, things have changed to the extent that Malaysians do not even have jobs to feed their families. Under this situation, the considerable presence of foreign labour might not be helping the way the locals perceive and act.
The arrival of 200 Rohingya to our shores had raised concerns among Malaysians. What more, politicians who were sympathetic to the Rohingya have turned their backs on them, Najib being an example.
The news, fake or otherwise, from a Rohingya group demanding rights leading to citizenship have not found sympathetic hearts among Malaysians to their plight.
P RAMASAMY is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister (II) of Penang.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
Keep up with the latest information on the outbreak in the country with Malaysiakini's free Covid-19 tracker.
Malaysiakini is providing free access to the most important updates on the coronavirus pandemic. You can find them here.
Help keep independent media alive - subscribe to Malaysiakini.