Charles Santiago

Posted by : Unknown | Ahad, 4 September 2011 | Published in

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Charles Santiago

A Merdeka ‘Refugee’ Slap?

Posted: 04 Sep 2011 08:48 AM PDT

Now that the mysterious froth covering the refugee swap deal has bubbled over, we have both the Malaysian and Australian governments cracking their heads to work around Australia’s High Court decision which ruled the deal illegal.

In a move that would leave hundreds of boat people in a limbo, Australia had hoped to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for re-settling 4,000 of its refugees over the next four years.

And under the deal wrapped by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia would be paid a cool 290 million Aussie dollars as processing and relocation fees.

The judged ruled that under Australia’s Migration Act, the government could not send asylum seekers to be processed in a country unless the country is compelled to offer adequate protection.

A summary of the court judgment said that “the country must be legally bound by international law or its own domestic law to provide protection for asylum seekers pending determination of their refugee status. In addition to these criteria, the Migration Act requires that the country meet certain human rights standards in providing that protection”.

This is definitely a slap on Malaysia’s face. And it came on Merdeka Day.

So now it’s clear that the Australian High Court thinks Malaysia is an unsafe destination for refugees. This is definitely not a pretty picture for the country.

But again why would the court ruling be otherwise? The UMNO-led coalition government is yet to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention or the UN Convention Against Torture.

According to Amnesty International more than 6,000 refugees are caned every year and Malaysia is a reluctant host to 100,000 refugees. The Barisan Nasional government is not even prepared to accommodate 17,000 refugee kids in schools.

Non-ratification of the Convention also means the status of asylum seekers and refugees are not recognized by the government. This extends to the police, Rela and the immigration.

Asylum seekers processed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would be given identification cards. The Kuala Lumpur government does not give a toss about this identification.

Refugees continue to be hunted down by the immigration officers and Rela, forcing them to do odd jobs on the quiet for paltry wages. They live sandwiched in tiny rooms and usually in jungles to avoid being nabbed and are at times sold to human traffickers by the immigration and Rela officers.

Malaysia has not uttered a word about the possibility of recognizing the asylum seekers, not even the 800 who would have been sent over forcefully by Australia if the deal had gone through.

While the court decision caricatures Malaysia’s appalling treatment of its refugees, it has also left Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s image in tatters. Gillard, who leads the nation with a mere one-seat majority, is at the risk of losing her top job.

Officials from both countries were in Kuala Lumpur late July to ink the memorandum of understanding to push for the refugee transfer program. It was packaged to demonstrate that the deal would nip human trafficking in the bud.

This is highly illogical and illustrates the foolishness of both countries. Refugees in Malaysia want to escape to Australia as Malaysia is a hell-hole for them. I am not mincing my words. Here they face persecution, torture and detention.

Australia, a nation which has ratified the convention, shamelessly indulged in a criminal act by attempting to send the boat people to Malaysia.

Malaysia would continue to attract refugees who are fleeing their home lands fearing persecution. These people could come from Burma, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Palestine or Afghanistan.

Signing deals with governments to trade refugees would not work. A durable Malaysian solution must start with the government ratifying the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Anything which falls short of this would only spell disaster for Malaysia’s already-crumbling human rights record.

Charles Santigo

Member of Parliament, Klang

Najib Should Admit Putera 1Malaysia Somalia Trip was Reckless

Posted: 04 Sep 2011 08:41 AM PDT

We all understand that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is thinking about the reputation of his party, UMNO, even as the wife and family members of BernamaTV cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd Nor grieve over his death.

At a press conference this morning, Najib rebuked those who were trying to pin the blame for Noramfaizul’s death on UMNO Youth and Putra 1Malaysia.

The premier must understand that no one is playing a blame game. But UMNO division chief Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, Putra 1Malaysia and Bernama must be held responsible for not providing Noramfaizul with adequate protection and training.

The media workers from Malaysia had no bullet proof vests, head gears and the 4-wheel they were traveling in was not marked “Media” to avoid sniper attacks.

Najib has gone on record to say that one could get killed even if he wears a bullet proof vest. He also dodged questions about whether journalists assigned to conflict zones must be given adequate training, saying such assignments come with its inherent risks.

But his most irresponsible remark is this – “Even foreign journalists get killed…If you don’t want to become a journalist, stay at home”.

I am shocked.

Journalists do not have to go to conflict zones to bring back news reports and footage. But some opt to do so to tell the truth and disseminate accurate information to the people. This is an honorable job.

As such, it is the duty of the media organizations to adequately train and protect their journalists.

Noramfaizul has been described by Najib as a national hero. Let’s try telling that to his wife, two young children and parents.

The truth is that he died because of a reckless trip put together by Putra 1Malaysia and Abdul Azeez with the backing of the government and Bernama.

It was nothing but a cheap publicity stunt for UMNO and Putra 1Malaysia when the aid could have been disbursed through existing aid agencies like the Medecins San Frontieres (MSF).

The government has to stop repeating what it does best – sweeping pertinent issues under the carpet.

Najib must admit that a gross mistake has been made by Putra 1Malaysia and Bernama.

Following that the Ministry of Information must impose safety protocol requirements to media organizations in order to protect reporters going to hostile areas.

This is because no story is worth dying for.

I call upon the government to institute an investigation into the level of preparedness of  this poorly planned and reckless mission to Somalia.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang

Government Should Impose Safety Requirements on Media Organizations to Protect Reporters.

Posted: 04 Sep 2011 12:38 AM PDT

As I sift through news reports on the death of Bernama cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd Nor, it is becoming clearer that safety measures provided for him and the rest of the team of media workers from Malaysia were insufficient.

According to media articles, Noramfaizul was hit by a stray bullet during a gun fight between African Union peacekeeping force and unidentified gunmen in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

He was with a group of journalists covering the humanitarian mission to Somalia, organized by the Putra 1Malaysia Club. It is has not been verified if the reporters and cameramen were equipped with safety gears like armored vehicles, bullet-proof vests and helmets.

According to Reporters Without Borders, Somalia is Africa’s deadliest country for media personnel. A total of 23 journalists were killed while on assignment there since 2007.

War-torn and famine-stricken Somalia has not had a functioning government over the last 20 years.

Local media organizations are also clearly aware of the dangers facing journalists in Somalia. A famous Canadian freelance journalist, Amanda Lindhout, was kidnapped on August 23, 2008 and released 15 months later.

Amanda, together with Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and their Somali translator Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, were kidnapped by gunmen as they were traveling to a refugee camp for a news report.

Their kidnappings made headlines and brought together media workers from across the globe to lobby for their release.

Despite the known dangers facing journalists in Somalia, it is shocking to note that the Malaysian team was sent in with inadequate safety precautions.

Therefore, it is imminent that Malaysian media organizations equip their staff with proper training before they are sent to hostile zones for work. This must be done without further delay.

I call upon the Ministry of Information to impose safety protocol requirements to media organizations in order to protect reporters going to hostile environment.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt condolences to Noramfaizul’s wife and family members.

I also wish TV3 reporter Aji Saregar Mazlan a speedy recovery from his injuries.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang.

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