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Rohingyas in Malaysia pin citizenship hopes on Suu Kyi

A huge portrait of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the facade of the National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon. The NLD’s victory in Myanmar’s historic elections last weekend has raised hopes of Rohinya refugees wishing to return to Rakhine state as citizens. – AFP pic, November 15, 2015.

By Melati A. Jalil and Diyana Ibrahim
November 15, 2015

Rohingyas in Malaysia are pinning their hopes on Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership to acknowledge their rights as Myanmar citizens, saying that it is one of themore important elements to be a truly democratic nation. 

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom) president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani said Rohingyas here have mixed feelings over the victory of National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Suu Kyi, which secured victory in the two houses of parliament and enough votes to pick the next president. 

“We are both happy and sad about the recent general election. Sad, because we could not exercise our rights as voters, we couldn’t do anything from here.

“Happy, because after she won, there is now a glimmer of hope that we may return to our country,” Zafar told The Malaysian Insider, referring to opposition leader Suu Kyi. Despite Suu Kyi’s silence over the plight of the Rohingya, Zafar said she could still bring changes to Myanmar. 

“Now it is up to Aung San Suu Kyi to give back Rohingyas their rights as citizens. I hope she can change Parliament, support and accept us back. 

“If they want to uphold democracy, they have to accept us, and I really hope Myanmar becomes a democratic country, where freedom, justice and equality for all citizens are upheld.” 

In the elections – the first openly contested in Myanmar in 25 years – NLD won in a landslide victory. 

Suu Kyi’s party secured 348 seats, enough to choose the next president, ending decades of military-backed rule. 

The military will, however, retain a quarter of the seats. 

Hoping for less violence 

Rohingya Ulama Council Malaysia (MUR) deputy president Ustaz Rahimullah M.D. Hossin said the opposition party could pave a new future for Rakhine state, especially in terms of reducing violence there. 

“We are not sure, but we are hoping for less violence or killing and that people there can get protection. 

“But if she (Suu Kyi) really wants to change Myanmar, she has to allow the Rohingyas to go back, give back our rights as citizens. That is true democracy.” 

For now, Rahimullah said, he would have to wait and see how things develop in Myanmar as he remained sceptical with politicians who made promises to win elections. 

“People all over the world are the same, before they win any seat (in elections) they will promise anything. When they actually win, we don’t know. 

“Before this, she may not have said anything about the Rohingyas because she didn’t have the power, now that she has won, we will see.” 

He, however, said they also felt the excitement over the end of military rule as the general election saw a huge turnout of about more than 80%. 

The November 8 elections were the most widely contested since 1990, a time when Suu Kyi was under house arrest. 

“Of course, we are happy, (our) biggest enemy which is the military government has lost. But we still do not know our fate. We need to see how she will rule.” 

Mohd Rafique Khairul Bashar, chairman of Ethnic Rohingya Committee of Arakan (ERCA) Malaysia said he was optimistic that Suu Kyi would allow them to return home. 

“Suu Kyi is a good person, she doesn’t care whether you are a Buddhist, Christian or Muslim, she treats everyone equally.” 

He said he understood the reason Suu Kyi remained mum about the Rohingya during the elections, as pro-government supporters might take it wrongly which could lead to her defeat in the polls. 

“Yes, she didn’t say anything about Rohingya, but we know what’s in her heart. 

“Now that she has won, just wait until she really takes over the government. I believe we will regain our rights, enjoy human rights. 

“We will be patient and wait, Insya Allah she will look after the Rohingya,” he said, adding that Knowledge Garden Learning Centre, a learning centre for Rohingya children in Seri Kembangan, also held a small gathering on Thursday to celebrate NLD’s victory.

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