‘Govt right to turn away Rohingya refugee boats’

MIRI: Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) here strongly back the action of the authorities in denying entry to a boat carrying Rohingya refugees into Malaysian waters last week.

The NGOs in a joint statement Monday said while they support the action taken, they also feel that a solution needs to be found to prevent any untoward incident.

The statement was issued by Dayak Think Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS), Dayak National Congress (DNC), Iban Sarawak Association (Pais), Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips) and Persatuan Balang Balai Nyabong (BBN).

“At the same time, we also condemn the actions of certain individuals who made claims that seem to be threatening the government to provide relief to Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.

“As refugees, we advise them to go along with any assistance provided by the Malaysian government,” said DTTAS founder Wellie Henry Majang.

The incident last week was criticised by human rights groups following two reports of authorities denying the entry of boats carrying Rohingya refugees.

DTTAS president Elias Lipi Mat said at a time when Malaysians are going through the Movement Control Order (MCO) and require more help, all parties should be aware that the government’s priority will be its citizens.

“The priority of our country is to address the people’s existing problems, not to add new problems, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic and the current economic downturn. The priority of the Malaysian government is its own people,” he said.

Meanwhile, DNC president Paul Raja said Malaysia has long been involved in helping international refugees.

He said immediate action has to be taken to resolve the issue with the refugees’ country of origin together with international agencies such as the United Nations.

“We hope it will not become a political issue to gain support. If Malaysia is no longer able to bear the burden of refugees that is already crowded, the government has the right to not accept the presence of new Rohingya refugees,” said Paul.

The issue of refugees in the country has to be resolved to prevent it becoming a national security issue in the future, he added.

The five NGOs went on to call on the Malaysian government to review its policy towards refugees, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is feared that illegals entering Malaysia either by land or sea will bring a new cluster of Covid-19 infection to the country.

“Our country’s experience with illegal immigrants has seen enough trouble to the people from all aspects of security, economy, business, job opportunities, social issues and so on.

“Therefore, to accommodate more refugees will put pressure on the Malaysian government’s resources, and we must put the interests of the local people first,” the group said in the statement.

Source: Borneo Post

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