Friday, November 14, 2014

Malaysian government urged to sign UN Convention on Refugees

Press Statement by M. Kula Segaran, MP for Ipoh Barat and Caucus member of Sri Lanka Displaced People, Malaysian Parliament on 12th November 2014

Malaysian government  urged to sign UN Convention on Refugees

The Malaysian Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights in Sri Lanka, comprising distinguished Members of Parliament met at the Malaysian Parliament to take stock of the progress of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka along with discussing the Sri Lankan refugee situation in Malaysia. The meeting was held in the background of the visit of Dr.Paul Newman from Bangalore who is an expert on the Sri Lankan issue.

It may be noted that in 2013, Malaysia abstained from voting at the 22nd UN human rights Council as a result of the pressure from this caucus. There was also a call by the caucus the same year to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

The Caucus is headed by Honourable Johari as the Chairperson and Honourable Kasturi as the Secretary. Other members include senior leader of the Opposition YB Kulasegaran. Wide ranging issues including the recent spate of attacks on the Muslims, the economic marginalization of the Muslim community in terms of boycotting and attacking the Muslim meat vendors selling Halal meat were taken up for discussion.

The grim situation of Tamils in the North and East was given special importance during the meeting in view of the ongoing UN International l Inquiry on War Crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state on the Tamils. The Caucus condemned Sri Lanka for not allowing the UN Investigators into Sri Lanka, thereby not complying with the state obligation to the UN. The Caucus also condemned the travel ban on foreigners to the northern part of Sri Lanka which proved that Sri Lanka wanted to hide something.

The issue of land grab was of prime concern to the caucus as the Tamils were being marginalised in their own land. Those who advocated for human rights were harassed by ghetto state and the worst to suffer were the journalist as media freedom was completely curtailed by the state. The rise of the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) which has openly advocated attacking the Muslims was a cause of concern to the caucus.

The caucus appealed to the Government of Sri Lanka to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act as the civil war was declared over in 2009 itself. They also appealed that a complete civilian administration should be restored in the North and East. The process of demilitarisation should be started with immediate effect and Sinhalization and promotion of Buddhism in the Tamil and Muslim dominated areas should be stopped at all cost in order to exude confidence in the civil society. 

The infrastructure development in the North and East was welcomed but it was pointed out that it was not a substitute to full enjoyment of rights of the people as the Government efforts to development of infrastructure was fully used by the armed forces. 

The pressing problem of the 7000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees was taken up as some of them have been living in Malaysia for more than sixteen years without proper papers. Though they speak Malay and hold UNHCR cards, their plight in Malaysia is deplorable as they face severe harassment by their employers and the authorities apart from living in abysmal conditions with lack of proper economic, educational and health facilities.

Mr.Kulasegaran urged the caucus to press Malaysia to sign the UN convention on refugees by which the refugees can get better protection. It may be noted that there are more than 150,000 refugees but they do not come under the protection mechanism off the UNHRC.  

The caucus resolved to meet the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to seek an update on the progress of the political issue with the Tamils and the treatment of the Muslims. They also decided to seek an answer from the Government of Malaysia on the stand of the OIC along with engaging the Chief of Mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) to resolve the refugee issue. 

The other MPs who attended were MPs for the constituencies of Seputeh, Kota Raja, Batu, Lanang, Kota Melaka, Batu Gajah, and Tumpat.

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