Indonesians demand urgent steps to end Rohingya plight

Indonesians stage a rally demanding an end of violence against the Rohingya people outside the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta. (AN photo)
Updated 04 September 2017

Indonesians demand urgent steps to end Rohingya plight

JAKARTA: Indonesians have expressed grave concern and anger following reports of violence against Rohingya Muslim refugees in Myanmar.
On Saturday, up to 100 people under the banner of the Society of Professionals for Rohingya Humanity staged a rally in front of Myanmar’s Embassy in Jakarta, urging member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to end the “genocide” of the Rohingya ethnic group.
“We also want Myanmar’s membership in ASEAN to be suspended,” said the group’s coordinator Ichsan Loulembah.
They demanded that Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi put more effort into ending the violence.
Otherwise she “doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and we demand that it be revoked,” Said Reza, a spokesman for a communication forum for mosque youth groups in Indonesia, told Arab News at the rally.
The deputy chairwoman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Suryani Motik, said the rally participants came from various business, political and religious backgrounds, and shared the same concerns over the Rohingya people’s ordeal.
There was a brief standoff between demonstrators and police guarding the embassy when the former tried to push past the latter’s barricade.
Police chief Ronald Purba said demonstrators tried to put up posters of Suu Kyi captioned “The Inhuman Lady” on the embassy walls. After failing to do so, demonstrators stomped on the posters before burning them.
Meanwhile, a few meters from the rally, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir met with representatives of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Muhammadiyah, the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), the Islamic Students Alumni Association and the Islamic Students Association.
Muhyiddin Junaidi, head of the MUI’s international relations department, said they conveyed to Marsudi and Fachir the concerns of the Indonesian people over the Rohingya issue, and urged the government to take firmer action against Myanmar.
They also “demanded that ASEAN hold an extraordinary meeting to urge Myanmar to end this atrocity, or their membership should be suspended,” Muhyiddin told Arab News.
Muhyiddin said according to Marsudi, if Jakarta exercises megaphone diplomacy, Myanmar may block Indonesia’s ability to channel humanitarian aid to the conflict-torn Rakhine state.
“Even though we and the government have different views, in principle we agree that Myanmar should stop violence against Rohingya people immediately, and we support the government’s effort. We hope it will be successful,” Muhyiddin said.
Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, on Thursday demanded that the government reconsider its silent diplomacy with Myanmar because it had not ended Rohingya suffering.
Given the number of victims, Muhammadiyah called on ASEAN to put aside its policy of non-interference in member states’ domestic affairs, and take common responsibility in protecting the Rohingya people.
“We demand that the (Indonesian) government consider the possibility of designating a certain area to temporarily shelter Rohingya refugees,” said Muhammadiyah Chairman Bahtiar Effendy.
He cited Indonesia’s designation of an area on Galang Island near Singapore to shelter Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970s for two decades.
The Indonesian Humanitarian Alliance for Myanmar (AKIM) — which unites 11 civil society and charity groups, including Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization NU, Muhammadiyah and the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Walubi) — said it is spending $2 million on health, education, economic and relief programs for the next two years.
“We began the programs in mid-2017. We fix roads and provide food and shelter. In the near future, we’ll assist with education facilities,” AKIM Chairman and NU representative Ali Yusuf said Thursday.
“The most important thing is that our programs are inclusive for all affected communities, regardless of ethnicity and religion,” he said, adding that the root cause of the conflict is economic, and all communities are deprived of economic opportunities.
“This is why our programs have nothing to do with religion. It’s about empowering communities that need empowerment,” he said.
Marsudi said the programs are in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’s report issued last week. The commission is led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
“We hope the Myanmar government will protect everyone in Rakhine state, including the Muslim community, and provide access for relief missions so the humanitarian situation won’t get worse,” Marsudi added.
The foreign minister is set to leave for Myanmar next week, and is expected to meet with Suu Kyi and National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun.


Climate activist Greta Thunberg is Time ‘person of the year’

Updated 11 min 12 sec ago

Climate activist Greta Thunberg is Time ‘person of the year’

NEW YORK: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time’s “person of the year” Wednesday, becoming at age 16 the youngest person to whom the US magazine has given the title.
Thunberg emerged as the face of the youth climate movement after she started skipping school once a week to protest outside her country’s parliament. In the past year and a half, she has drawn large crowds at international conferences and demonstrations outside Sweden.
Some have welcomed Thunberg’s environmental activism, including her speeches challenging world leaders to do more to stop global warming. But others have criticized the teenager’s sometimes combative tone.
“For sounding the alarm about humanity’s predatory relationship with the only home we have, for bringing to a fragmented world a voice that transcends backgrounds and borders, for showing us all what it might look like when a new generation leads, Greta Thunberg is TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year,” the media franchise said Wednesday on its website.
Leaving a United Nations climate conference in Madrid where she addressed negotiators on Wednesday, Thunberg told The Associated Press she was “a bit surprised” by Time’s recognition, which she dedicated to all young activists.
Thunberg said she was hopeful the message of urgency she and other activists are communicating — that governments need to drastically increase their efforts to combat climate change — is finally getting through.
She said the experience of the past 15 months, going from solo-protester outside the Swedish parliament to addressing world leaders at the UN General Assembly, had changed her.
“I think life is much more meaningful now that I have something to do that has an impact,” Thunberg said in a phone interview.
She plans to head home to Sweden for some rest during the holidays. “If you don’t take breaks, you won’t be able to continue,” she said.
Last year’s Time winners included slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi; the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.