Desk report, September 25: Putting emphasis on a long-term solution to the protracted Rohingya crisis, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said she is going to place a four-point proposal at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to this end.“Let me reiterate the following points which I shall be presenting to the (current) 74th UNGA Session,” she said.
The proposals, she said, are:
- Myanmar must express clear political will manifested by concrete actions for sustainable return and reintegration of Rohingyas to Myanmar, BSS reports.
- Myanmar must build trust among the Rohingyas by discarding discriminatory laws and practices and allowing “go and see” visit to the Northern Rakhine by the Rohingya representatives.
- Myanmar must guarantee security and safety of the Rohingyas, among others, by deploying civilian monitors from international community in the Rakhine state.
- International community must ensure that the root causes of Rohingya problem are addressed and atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for. OIC initiative to take the issue to ICJ is indeed a significant step towards that direction.
The prime minister made the announcement while addressing a “High-level Event on the Situation of Rohingya Minority in Myanmar” here on Tuesday afternoon local time.
The Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN and the OIC Secretariat organised the event at the UN Headquarters.
Sheikh Hasina mentioned that in the past, she had offered a five-point proposal to the United Nations during the 72nd UN General Assembly.
“The proposals included full implementation of recommendations of Kofi Annan Commission, and establishment of a “civilian monitored safe zone” in the Rakhine State,” she said.
The prime minister reiterated that the Rohingya crisis is a political one deeply rooted in Myanmar and thus, its solution has to be found inside Myanmar.
“I reiterate, the root of the Rohingya problem lies in Myanmar and the solution has to be found in Myanmar,” she said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen and Saudi Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf also spoke at the event.
Besides, ministers and representatives of different countries including the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Belgium, European Union, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey, Sweden, Singapore, Kuwait, Serbia, the Philippines and Gambia also joined the event.
The prime minister said while humanitarian assistance and other supports to the Rohingyas address their immediate needs, it is important to achieve a long-term solution in Myanmar to the protracted Rohingya crisis.
“They must be able to return to their homes where they lived for centuries,” she said.
The prime minister said: “It’s regrettable that we are passing yet another year without any solution to the Rohingya crisis. The plight of the Rohingyas – persecuted in the Northern Rakhine state of Myanmar is continuing unabated.”
According to the UN reports, she said, Rohingyas have been victims of atrocity crimes.
The premier said the issue of accountability for human rights violations against the Rohingyas would be another crucial factor to ensure sustainable, safe and voluntary return.
“Bangladesh is following the ongoing proceedings of the International Criminal Court … we believe that OIC can also play a major role in fulfilling the need to ensure accountability through the Ad-Hoc Ministerial Group on Accountability,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh appreciates the adoption of the Joint Communiqué of the 14th Islamic Summit Conference of OIC held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, on 31 May 2019.
“It urged the adhoc Ministerial Committee led by the Gambia to take immediate measures to launch the case at the International Court of Justice on behalf of the OIC. We believe it is time to act upon the decision expressed in the OIC Summit Joint Communiqué,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has been hosting 1.1 million forcibly deported Myanmar Nationals. “We’ve opened our borders for these people in the spirit of humanitarianism, which is a pervading moral fiber of Islam,” she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh will continue to do everything possible to ensure the basic needs of the Rohingyas pending their return to their homeland.
“We’ve allocated over 6800 acres of forest land for sheltering them incurring huge ecological hazard and environmental destruction,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has extended all kinds of humanitarian assistance including shelter, food, health, water and sanitation to the Rohingyas.
She went on saying: “A considerable number of public sector employees were deployed to coordinate management and law and order in the camps.”
The premier said new and additional physical infrastructures including roads and power supply arrangements had to be built on an ongoing basis. “As many as 219 medical facilities were set up over time, out of which fifty are being operated by the government,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said in terms of financial assistance, as of now, around USD 120 million has been released from the government’s exchequer for direct assistance to the Rohingya.
“Among additional measures, by instance, our Ministry of Social Welfare took charge of the 39,841 Rohingya orphans registered so far … I also sanctioned more than USD 2.5 million from my special relief fund in support of the host community,” she said.
The premier said to address the congestion problem in the camps as well as to facilitate humanitarian services to the displaced Rohingyas, the government is developing “Bhasan Char Island” with all the provisions to protect the displaced Rohingyas.
“In Bhasan Char, the Rohingyas will be provided with better housing facility and also livelihood opportunity till they return to Myanmar,” she said.
Speaking at the event, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad said the situation in Myanmar is not any better. “Many Rohingyas have become internally-displaced persons (IDPs) languishing in camps in Rakhaine,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said when the world likened the IDP camps to those notorious concentration camps of the past, the Myanmar government has denied quickly.
“Yet the Myanmar authorities have denied access to some UN officials and humanitarian aid workers. If Myanmar has nothing to hide why bar others from seeing the situation in Rakhaine?” he questioned.
“Let these officials and aid workers visit, inspect and assist those living in the camps … Myanmar should demonstrate that it is serious in alleviating the crisis,” he said, adding in doing so repatriation should be the main priority.
The Malaysian premier said two attempts have been made to repatriate some of the refugees, but both have failed.
“Reasons for these are obvious — no one would return if they do not feel that their safety is guaranteed,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will continue to insist that repatriation be done in a safe voluntary and dignified manner. “This can only be done by granting full citizenship to the Rohingyas,” he said.
He, however, said the Myanmar authorities had manipulated the Rohingya issue to incite fear, hatred and violence.
“Thus, merely considering the idea of granting citizenship is unacceptable. It is obvious that Myanmar’s attempt on ensuring accountability has failed,” he said.
Dr Mahathir continued: “How would such attempt work if the perpetrators responsible for the atrocities are part of the system?”
He said it is clear that the Myanmar government is unwilling to resolve the crisis. “Therefore it is left up to us — the international community —to do something with about the situation,” he said.
The Malaysian premier said the UN should play its role taking into account that it was established in hopes of preventing future human made miseries.
“Its silence is deafening,” he said.
Without Security Council action, he said, other must do their part to resolve the crisis and bring perpetrators to justice.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia commends the positive efforts of the OIC in addressing the Rohingya issue at the international fora.
“And for the decision to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice. We hope other countries would support the OIC to ensure that the perpetrators do not get away with the heinous crimes that they have committed,” he said.
Highlighting Malaysia’s humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas, Dr Mahathir said, “We will continue to help the Rohingyas within our means and capacity.”
He said Malaysia has done and will continue to do what it can.
“Nevertheless we hope others would also join us and Bangladesh in our resolve to end the miseries that have befallen the Rohingyas. We need to put an end to the crisis and we need to do it now.”
Terming atrocities on Rohingyas as the genocide in Cambodia, he said, “Let us start by calling a spade, a spade. What happened in the Rakhine state is genocide.”
The Malaysian premier said what took place were the mass killings, systematic rape and other gross violation of human rights.
“These resulted in Rohingyas fleeing the country en masse. Most ended in Cox’s Bazar. on this, we commend Bangladesh for all it has done in hosting more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen delivered the welcome address, while Chairperson of Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Saima Wazed Hossain, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Md Shahab Uddin, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Ministry Muhammad Faruk Khan were present on the occasion.
Briefing reporters after the event, the foreign minister said the participants extended a stronger support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.
They also want safe, secure and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh, Momen said.
Highly praising Bangladesh’s noble gesture of hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas, everybody has assured that they will persuade Myanmar to take back their nationals from Bangladesh, the foreign minister said.
“I think it’s a great achievement for Bangladesh,” he said.
The foreign minister said the event was followed by a pledging session organised by Saudi Arabia where different OIC member countries promised to donate a total of US$270 million to the UNHCR.