Chin Tong: Hardline behaviour towards migrants setting Malaysia back

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The Perikatan Nasional government’s hardline and xenophobic sentiments have harmed the nation’s standing in the region, and set Malaysia backwards, said Liew Chin Tong.

The former deputy defence minister was particularly alarmed by the attacks against the Rohingyas and other migrants by Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin and director-general of immigration Khairul Dzaimee Daud.

He added that such attacks had resulted in the government wasting the regional goodwill both the previous Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan governments had forged, especially on the issue of the Rohingya.

“In a time of Covid-19, we should realise that being kinder to the Rohingya and migrants is actually being smart and practical for everyone.

Chan Tak Kong/The Star

“But Hamzah and Khairul’s xenophobic and threatening statements will drive the millions of undocumented migrants in Malaysia into hiding and we will not achieve the herd immunity so vital for our path to recovery as a nation.

“To reach that herd immunity, we will need compliance and consent by all migrants to come out to be vaccinated. And the only way to get compliance is to give all of them some forms of protection from being arrested and abused,” he said in a blog posting today.

In recent weeks, Hamzah had said the government would continue to arrest undocumented migrants during the full lockdown from June 1 to 28, resulting in him being roundly criticised.

He was also accused of contradicting National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who said previously that migrants would not be hunted down and assured they would not be arrested when they came forward for the vaccination.

Hamzah however had said his push to round up undocumented migrants during the total lockdown was aimed at helping them get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Liew, who is a senator, said Malaysia had a long history of protecting the Rohingya, which was started by the BN government and continued by the PH government in which he had served.

“The point that we have to accept is that the Rohingya in Malaysia have nowhere to turn to as the situation in Myanmar is even more uncertain after the coup in February.

“The Rohingya here are vulnerable and marginalised, subjected to abuses by employers and occasional extortion by enforcement officers. Almost 2,000 Rohingya, including a high number of children, remain in detention.

“I am particularly disappointed that the PN government has wasted the regional goodwill both the previous BN and PH governments had created on the issue of the Rohingya,” said the DAP leader. – TMI