Weaponising The Refugee Issue In Malaysia

“There's no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one thing always leading to another.”
- American writer E B White

Two years back, I got into trouble with my 'progressive' friends for writing a piece about the Rohingya issue that was not politically correct. I have not revised my opinion on the matter.
I reproduce three points from the article that demonstrate why political operatives and advocacy groups profit from the Rohingya and refugee issue while further dividing this country.
(1) We should be denying and curtailing the influx of Rohingya into this country, who for years have been living off the political machinations of the Malay Muslim political establishment.
When it was convenient to use these 'economic' migrants for political and religious purposes, Malay political operatives from both sides of the divide were using them as examples of the 'injustices' the Muslim community faced in the world and using them as a rallying cry for local Muslim solidarity.
(2) Of course, there has been no discussion or accountability of the millions of dollars of aid from Muslim countries and Western organisations for the benefit of the Rohingya community.
Neither has there been accountability for the numerous Rohingya organisations that claim to advocate for the community but have been assimilated into various Muslim advocacy groups in the country.
(3) What we are dealing with is the economic fallout of decades of political and religious manipulation of the state and the misguided intentions of non-Malay participants in creating a powder keg of racial imbalances in the majority Malay community.
MCA Beliawanis (MCA Young Women's Bureau) chief Ivone Low Yi Wen got some folks' knickers in a twist when she commented on the thug-like behaviour of “refugee children” in a series of online video clips.
Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said said children should not be blamed when 'the country' failed to protect them.
Well actually, no, the 'country' did not fail to protect them. The political apparatus of this country failed to protect them as it has failed with a great many issues.
Depending on the racial and class structure of the country, a certain section does not want them here, another section is using them for political mileage, and another section probably thinks that open borders are a good thing.
Predictable voices of condemnation
The predictable voices of condemnation came from social activist cliques, paid activists, and the usual assortment of political operatives – who to be fair to them some have done sterling work on marginalised communities here in Malaysia.
These voices are just further perpetuating political narratives that complicate homegrown issues of race and religion. Both sides are using children to score political points.
It really does not matter if it is BN, Perikatan Nasional, or Pakatan Harapan. Each at one time or another, most likely when out of government, has used refugees, especially Muslim refugees, as pawns in an effort to discredit the ruling party or attempt to show how the support of refugees translates to supporting the Malay polity.
All this is not only hypocritical but also mendacious as both attempt to portray the situation as a religious one - when it comes to Muslim refugees - as opposed to economic or political ones.
Consider the online reception then human resources minister M Kulasegaran received when he reminded the Harapan government of its campaign pledge to allow refugees to work.
Here, and in other places, he was vilified for not looking after “Malaysians first” and predictably the Harapan government had a rethink on how to approach this issue.
But this did not stop political operatives – Malay and non-Malay – from pontificating on the “plight” of refugees in Malaysia.
As it is, we have enough Malaysians who are having it rough because successive elected governments are more interested in maintaining power through race and religion than by actually formulating policies that would help all Malaysians.

All these Malay uber alles political operatives are now discovering that decades of religious and immigration malfeasances have resulted in a polity that is competing with a host of Muslim migrants in a time of a pandemic.
And the resentment is slowly bubbling to the top. This is why we have articles in the foreign media about how once welcomed refugees are being harassed online and in the streets of urban areas in Malaysia.
All this should be understood in the context of the nexus between political power, the state security apparatus, and criminal enterprise when it comes to not only human trafficking but also corporate needs when it comes to cheap labour, which is further complicated in the era of Covid.
Meanwhile, non-Malay political operatives are reinforcing political narratives of the Malay power structures they are attached to.
The MCA for instance understands the agitation and resentment bubbling to the top in the Malay community when it comes to this issue. This is why Low gets battered online in the English-speaking/liberal Malay sphere and treated as a truth-speaker in the Malay sphere.
Meanwhile, it is the height of hypocrisy when non-Malay Harapan political operatives virtue signal when it comes to this issue but when in power, they and their base discarded this issue because they realised it was political kryptonite.

This is exactly why high-profile Malay political operatives from Harapan who are extremely vocal on certain issues are muted on this issue.
Someone in the Malay political establishment – politically unaffiliated – who for years stoked this issue (for BN and Harapan), now tells me that he is shocked by how out of control this situation has become. And like me, he is worried about the security issue.
The reality is, and I know folks do not want to hear this, but if you think that we have extreme religious ideas here, you have no clue of the extreme ideas that could be (and have been) injected into the religious discourse by elements moving in migrant communities.
Both sides are attempting to get political profit from this issue. The question then becomes which side is going to reap the rewards. The side that is coming down hard on refugees or the side that wants to embrace them. - Mkini
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum - “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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