Press Release - May 14, 2008
Yesterday, Prime Minister, YAB Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched a fund for cyclone-hit Burma after Kuala Lumpur's aid team landed in Rangoon. In his speech, he stated "We help them on humanitarian grounds, there is no politics in this matter. When there are people suffering, we Malaysians always offer assistance."
We applaud the Prime Minister and all Malaysians who have come forward to give aid and support to the people of Burma. It is the right thing to do where cyclone Nargis left 100,000 dead or missing and affecting two million or more people.
But right now in our country, there are more than 60,000 Burmese refugees with children who are being hunted down with a form of vengeance by the RELA and the Immigration department and mercilessly being arrested and detained in inhuman conditions in the various Immigration detention centers.
The recent burning of Lenggeng detention centers, reflects the harsh treatment given to migrant detainees and the total mismanagement of the camps by Immigration and RELA authorities.
The NTV 7 revelation , “Refugees for Sale” under the program Siasatan, of the involvement of enforcement officers in the blatant trafficking of women, children and men from the refugee community during the deportation to the Thai border smacks of embedded corruption and blatant arrogance and abuse of power of the enforcement agencies with RELA. To date, the Home Minister has not made public of investigations carried out on these agencies and what steps are being taken to make them accountable.
Meanwhile arrests and abuse have been stepped up, and the sale of them continue with even greater vigor that refugees are forced to flee their homes in Malaysia. We know of pregnant women, even up to 8 months pregnant with other children running for their safety to areas of high risk to their health and their children’s health. Refugees live in great fear of their safety once more from this form of state violence and repression.
The current government cannot continue to behave like the junta of Burma that oppresses and represses the people at gun point. The Burmese refugees are here because their lives have been deeply threatened. They came into this country with the sole hope and believe that a nation that practices democracy and is not experiencing conflict will protect them.
The Prime Minister must live and practice his statement that when people suffer, we must offer assistance. Why can’t we offer support and assistance to the refugees who are here with us in this country? Why are we arresting them and selling them as slaves or threatening them with deportation to Burma when we know that their lives will be at great risk even death? Is this not brutally inhuman?
Knowing very well the deep political crisis in Burma and now with the catastrophe of cyclone Nargis, is not just and right that refugees be recognized as refugees? Should we not start our humanitarian response to the refugees in the country by stopping the arrest of all refugees and going further to recognize them as refugees?
Tenaganita calls on the Prime Minister to show our humanitarian values and response by stopping the arrest and detention of all refugees; stopping the deportation of refugees; recognizing them as refugees so that they can stay and work in the country. We also urge the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to thoroughly investigate the continued abuse, trafficking and sale of refugees and corruption allegations and reports made on RELA and the Immigration officials.
It is only in recognizing the truth and in acting to redress the intense human rights violations perpetrated against the refugee community can we regain our humanity as a nation.
Dr. Irene Fernandez