Kit Siang: Stop detainee-swap deal

Tarani Palani | October 20, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

Put in an effective system in place first to protect Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers from persecution in their homeland, says the AIPMC chair.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) has voiced concern over the planned exchange of detainees between Malaysia and Myanmar.

Its Malaysian caucus chair, Lim Kit Siang, today said that the planned exchange raised concerns as there may be a possibility of persecution of those sent back to Myanmar.

“Those who flee Myanmar, namely ethnic and other persecuted minorities remain at risk of persecution of all forms should they continue to live under the military regime.

“We wish to reiterate that such a ‘swap deal’ serves political interests well ahead of these exceedingly serious human rights concerns,” said the Ipoh Timur MP.

Lim called for the planned swap to be halted before an effective system is put in place to protect the Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers from persecution in their homeland.

He also questioned if such a swap deal was in accordance with international law.

The swap plan was announced on Monday by Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein as part of a larger cooperation between the two countries to combat trans-border crimes.

A newly-formed working committee is set to meet next week to discuss in detail the exchange-plan.

‘M’sia abdicating from its responsibility’

Hishammuddin said currently there are about 1,000 Myanmar detainees held here and that the swap will help ease the congestion in Malaysian detention centres.

It was not revealed how many Malaysian detainees are currently held in Myanmar.

The swap deal comes hot on the heels of the failed refugee and asylum-seeker swap between Australia and Malaysia.

Australia was to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia and accept 4,000 refugees from Malaysia. However last week, Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard scrapped the deal after months of strong opposition.

PKR vice president, Tian Chua who was also at the press conference questioned why the Malaysian government was “obsessed” with swapping refugees and asylum seekers.

“Is there some hidden motive behind it? (Malaysia) seems to be abdicating from its responsibility to others when dealing with refugees,” said the Batu MP.

Tian brushed aside Hishammuddin’s justification for the swap – that it will ease congestion in Malaysian detention centres

“We are sending them (Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers) to the dungeon in Myanmar. There are other ways to improve conditions here which have nothing to do with prison conditions,” he said.

  1. #1 by Jong on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 9:34 pm

    What “Swap deal”? That’s human trafficking! And this despicable BN government seems to be very much into it!

    Of course there’ll always be congestion in our Malaysian detention centres, have they not been so for decades?
    How not to, when those watching our borders and immigration check-point are not serious on their job,
    too much complacency and corruption.
    Our “mata-mata” operate with one eye closed all the time, and immigration records go missing, erased, no?

    What’s your motive Mr Home Minister? Just stop uttering nonsense, get down to serious work, we have enough of your monkey biz!

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 11:18 pm

    M’sian Bar welcomes Swap albeit cautiously, and with qualification whilst AIPMC seems against UNTIL “effective system in place first to protect Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers from persecution in their homeland”. The point is can there be an effective system, and when? I argue that it is difficult to have such a system… The international law obligation argument is difficult to uphold. Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol. There is currently no legislative or administrative framework for dealing with refugees and our govt is not expected to take significant steps to establish it. We’re just a transit point.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 11:33 pm

    There are already some 3 million migrants (more than 10% of population), 1.5 million of whom are considered undocumented migrants and out of these from Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nigeria Afghanistan, Iraq, at least 350,000 are Myanmarese. Not only is Malaysia not signatory to Refugee Convention or its Protocol, our own domestic Immigration Act makes no differentiation between political asylum seekers/refugees and illegals without documentation making all without proper papers (and even some with such papers) subject to harassment of corrupt enforcement officers. How are we going to feed them, provide health care/education etc when our resources are stretched to the point of withdrawing subsidies and imposing GST on Mlaysians? Problem is worldwide and is the world’s problem Every year war and conflict break out in some countries, what can UN or UNHCR do? They can stop it; neither can they intervene. Can we take this flood? Being transit country does not help if other signatories to UN Reugee Convention are not accepting these people from us for their re-settlement there.

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 20 October 2011 - 11:53 pm

    On specific point of Human Rights there’s a need to weigh probabilities. They escaped their country in the thick of conflict to come here. Here’s no neither haven or heaven. Its from a boiling pot to fire pan! They are harassed and extorted money on the streets. If detained they are dumped into squalid and over-crowded conditions called refugee camps where Aids & Dengue are ever present. Tenaganita’s Irene Fernandez highlighted their plight in a memorandum “Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Treatment of Migrant Workers at the Detention Camps”. She was charged instead under Section 8A(1) of the Printing and Publications Act 1984 for “maliciously publishing false news”! How could NGO protect them when its own director charged? If they hope to be re-settled in better places like Australia think again: Australian government was willing to pay money to deport 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia instead. This should not happen as Australia unlike M’ysia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. The fact is everyone talks of human rights but no one wants refugees in a flood. In US they have put a ceiling even in genuine asylum cases.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 October 2011 - 12:13 am

    In premises of preceding postings, sending them back could on balance be more humane. Here may be hellish. In April 2008 Myanmarese detainees rioted in their camp, torching a building, after hearing they had been denied asylum in a third country. If they want to get out, let them go back to Burma if places like Australia don’t want them. Swap is an opportunity to send back people who otherwise had difficulties in past to return eg Rohingyas in 1990s from Myanmar couldn’t return then because Myanmar’s government then disputed even their origin and refused to let them in. For others who fled in fear of persecution by the army, forced labor and extra-judicial killings then it does not mean that the face the same now. Unless one is a person like Aung San Suu Kyi who could mobilize masses & threaten the Junta. And even she has been released as Junta tries to sow a democratic face eyeing the 2014 ASEAN Chair. Whatever, staying and being trapped here under tough conditions with little chance of being resettled elsewhere – even the US, patron-saint of right of asylum with international and federal law obligations (which Malaysia does not have) now sets ceiling/limit for taking in – is arguably greater punishment and less humane.

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