By Sarah Naeem
ARU News October 05, 2014
New York. The OIC Ministerial Contact Group convened at the 69th United Nations General Assembly in New York. Important issues on Rohingya ethnic minority and strategies to find a permanent and lasting solution were discussed in the meeting. Delegations from several countries have expressed their concerns on the lack of progress on Rohingya issues in Arakan. They discussed strategies on engagement with the Government of Burma not only by OIC perspective, but also from the ASEAN perspectives as bilateral relations with Burma that many countries maintain. Among all the Ministerial delegations, they agreed that efforts in dialogue for ethnic and communal reconciliation in Arakan must be stepped up, but there are also needs for more serious and urgent approach for short-term solutions that could set the stage for long-term dialogue and reconciliation efforts.
The Special Envoy of the OIC to Myanmar, Tan Sri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar, also attended the Ministerial Meeting. The special envoy presented a strong case on what he perceives the Rohingya issue based on his personal experience in Arakan and Naypyitaw as well as the Southeast Asian diplomacy. He made it very clear that the Rohingya and Muslim issue in Burma is rather complex, and dialogue and understanding among the ethnic groups in Arakan is the foundation to solving the problem. He stressed that there may be some challenges in brining the communities together to the table but he also expressed his optimism based on his personal interactions with Burmese and Rakhine officials and the leadership. Contrary to what some Burmese and Rakhine media has earlier reported or alluded to, Ambassador Albar was reportedly well received by the union and state officials in Burma followed by frank and objective discussions on Rohingya issues. Ambassador Albar also expressed high optimism in solving the Rohingya and Myanmar/Pathi Muslim issues that clearly is not what Buddhist Rakhine and some Burmese media had reported earlier. It is obvious that some unprofessional and violence-loving media in Burma are continuously serving as destructive elements not only against Rohingya ethnic minority but also towards the peace in Arakan during the so-called “transition to democracy” that the Government of Burma is claiming.
During the meeting, Dr. Wakar Uddin, the Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union, was given the floor, where he provided the Ministerial delegation the true picture on the ground in Arakan and realistic approach to finding a solution to Rohingya issue. Dr. Uddin unequivocally stated that the Government of Burma must adhere to standards of international law and ethics in all of its conducts. The Government must be consistent in what its senior officials tell the international community and how they drive the policy on the ground in Arakan. Among other things, Dr. Uddin highlighted four major points: 1) the relentless campaign by the radical elements in the Government of Burma to eliminate the very ethnic name and identity of Rohingya; 2) the verification/nationality scrutiny process mired with controversy, hate, and violence by the Burmese and Buddhist Rakhine forces; 3) the unrelenting human right violations and ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya people by the Burmese officials; and 4) the dire situation in Rohingya IDP camps, and the needs for speedy return and operation of NGOs to their full capacity for increased humanitarian assistance to the IDPs. Dr. Uddin also submitted the exhibits of forced “Bengalization” of Rohingya and Kamen Muslims in Arakan through violence by Burmese and Buddhist Rakhine police against Rohingya and Kamen Muslims. He showed the recently issued highly controversial Nationality Scrutiny cards (Green and Pink Cards), in Myabon Township by the Government of Burma. “Your Excellency, the word “Bengali” in the Lu Myo (Race) column is written by the Burmese officials in the Green cards forcefully issued to Rohingya, and the word “Bengali Kamen” is written in the Red cards issued to Kamen Muslims, that were actually one of 135 ethnic groups recognized by the Military Regime earlier – if it is not ethnic cleansing, then what is?” Dr. Uddin stated. “These radicals in the Government are completely consumed with the word “Bengali”, they are poised to eliminate the very identity of Rohingya, and they have evidently initiated the re-characterization of the Kamen also as Bengali, similar to what they are doing to Rohingya – this is very alarming” Dr. Uddin concluded.