As rancor against Rohingya continues, MCA insists Malaysians must come first amid Covid-19

General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara
General view of a Rohingya settlement in Bandar Baru Sentul, Kuala Lumpur April 24, 2020. — Picture Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 — Amid xenophobic and hateful comments by some Malaysians online against the Rohingya community, MCA has urged Putrajaya today to prioritise Malaysians first during the pandemic rather than refugees.

MCA vice president Datuk Tan Teik Cheng said it was incumbent on the government to prioritise the health, security and livelihoods of Malaysians, further adding that the issue of Rohingya should not pose any burden to the country.

“The Malaysian government has consistently been concerned about the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar and has provided massive assistance.

“However, in view of the current pandemic situation, the government must give priority towards protecting the health, security and livelihoods of the rakyat,” he said in a statement here.

He also said Malaysia acted correctly in denying vessels ferrying Rohingyas from entering Malaysia as it could pose more problems by exerting pressure on the country’s medical system, which is fully concentrated towards overcoming Covid-19.

“The Royal Malaysian Navy and Royal Malaysian Air Force must be lauded for successfully intercepting the attempted smuggling of 200 Rohingyas by boat into Langkawi on April 17, 2020.

“This is a prudent and decisive decision and in compliance with international law,” he added.

He also called upon Asean and the United Nations to undertake their role in solving the dilemma faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar as it is not solely a Malaysian issue to be solved by the country alone.

Similarly, MCA International Communication and Diplomacy Bureau chairman Dr Tee Ching Seng echoed Tan’s remark on prioritising efforts against Covid-19, while stating that it was undeniable that Malaysia acknowledged the hardships faced by the refugees.

“Before the worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia has already channelled assistance to these refugees, but now we are in a crisis and safety of our own citizens must be prioritised.

“Moreover, the Rohingya refugee issue is not a matter which Malaysia could solve itself but the cooperation of all South-east Asian nations,” he said in a separate statement.

Dr Tee further pointed out the influx of Rohingya refugees will heighten the risk of Covid-19 infections and threaten the health of Malaysians.

Without naming names, Dr Tee also called out certain organisations and politicians accusing the Malaysian government of its failure to uphold human rights for disallowing vessels transporting Rohingya refugees from docking amid the worsening Covid-19 global pandemic.

“Do not sabotage the government’s effort in curbing Covid-19 in the name of ‘human rights’. Does our country have the resources and capacity to accommodate these refugees?”

“Nonetheless, based on humanitarian principles, maritime enforcement agencies have already distributed food and supplies aid to Rohingya ships before escorting them to our maritime borders.

“Individuals and organisations fighting for Rohingyas using the basis of ‘human rights’ to criticise the federal government should instead channel their grouses to Myanmar, not Malaysia,” he added.

Earlier today, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob called on Malaysians to let cool heads prevail and not to resort to unnecessary provocations in light of an apparent social media campaign against the Rohingya community.

He assured the public that the police are investigating the issue that has of late created a feeling of hatred against the Rohingya community during the movement control order (MCO).

In recent days, some social media users in Malaysia have railed against Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani and the Rohingya community in general, accusing them of being lawbreakers and criminals.

In addition, an online petition has been launched, urging the government to ignore tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees affected by the MCO.

On April 18, Human Rights Watch reported that the Royal Malaysian Navy turned back a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya men, women and children, despite reportedly providing food to those on board two days prior.

The European Rohingya Council Ambassador to Malaysia Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi also on April 22 called on governments in the region, especially Asean members, to allow the Rohingya immediate and safe disembarkation and urgently agree to emergency measures to prevent another humanitarian crisis, while accommodating governments’ existing Covid-19 restrictions at their borders.

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