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Tutu defends Suu Kyi over Rohingya silence

February 28, 2013 
Myanmar Times: 
By Tim McLaughlin  
Speaking at the American Center
in Yangon on February 27, retired archbishop and Noble Peace Prize Laureate
Desmond Tutu said that Aung San Suu Kyi’s reluctance to speak out was linked to
her current political position.
Tutu refused to criticise fellow
Peace Prize recipient Suu Kyi over her continued silence on Myanmar’s Rohingya
issue, but said he hoped that she would be given the chance in the future to
explain how politics had influenced her choices.
“Perhaps it would be important
that one day she does get the opportunity of explaining how political
considerations can make it difficult to be as clear and unambiguous,” Tutu
said, adding that Suu Kyi is making the transition between what he described as
a “global icon” and politician.
The two met on February 26 at Suu
Kyi’s home in Yangon, during Tutu’s first visit to Myanmar. He has long been a
supporter of Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s process of democratisation.
Tutu’s comments came a week after
two other Nobel Peace Prize recipients called on the Myanmar government to end
“ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine state and grant “full citizenship” to the
Rohingya: something Suu Kyi has not done.
Noble Peace Prize recipients
former president of Timor Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, and the economist
responsible for the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, Muhammad Yunus,
voiced their concerns in an editorial published by Huffington Post on February
“Even as we applaud and rejoice
in the new freedoms enjoyed by the Myanmar people, the country’s newly elected
government must face this challenge as they evolve from autocratic rule into a
democratic state. The tragedy of the Rohingya people, continuing to unfold in
Rakhine State in the country’s western corner, on the border of Bangladesh,
will be its proving ground,” wrote Ramos-Horta and Yunus.
“The minority Muslim Rohingya
continue to suffer unspeakable persecution, with more than 1,000 killed and
hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes just in recent months,
apparently with the complicity and protection of security forces.”
Ramos-Horta and Yunus also
criticised Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law.
Tutu’s comments, however, were
not as pointed as those of Ramos-Horta and Yunus.
“How we treat our minority,
ultimately is going to decide whether we survive,” Tutu said to loud applause
when speaking about the Rohingya.
Tutu, who retired as the
Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1984 for
his efforts to end South Africa’s apartheid. After abolishing the apartheid, he
served as the Chairman of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a
restorative court-like body formed to review the crimes committed during the
apartheid era.