Image: Members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) command Rohingya people in ‘No Man’s Land’ between Bangladesh-Myanmar border to stop in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 27, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain.
The flight of Rohingya people from Myanmar has captured the attention and concern of the international community of which Sri Lanka is a member. The vast majority of those fleeing Myanmar have sought refuge in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and neighboring countries. Only a handful has attempted to come to Sri Lanka. The plight of the Rohingyas has been evident for several years now, with its intensity at atrocities against men, women and children at unprecedented levels in the last few weeks. The National Peace Council is perturbed that the Sri Lankan government has issued instructions to the immigration authorities to deny permission to Rohingyas to enter Sri Lanka. We regret that they have been sent away without being considered as refugees.
The plight of entire communities of people who have lost their loved ones, homes and properties due to the conflict in Myanmar has a special resonance to us in Sri Lanka. Due to the ethnic conflict, terrorism and war that last over three decades, we lost over a million of our people who left the country to seek asylum in other parts of the world. The National Peace Council therefore urges the government to reconsider its decision to screen out Rohingyas to prevent them from entering Sri Lanka. We believe that just as other countries accepted asylum seekers from our country we need to reciprocate on the basis of humanitarian ideals which we have accepted as a country. Although Sri Lanka is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951 pertaining to the status of refugees, as a member country of the United Nations we believe it has an obligation to take on its share of international humanitarian responsibilities.
We also endorse the statement issued by the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, and Minister of City Planning and Water Supply, Rauff Hakeem, to share our concerns with the Government of Myanmar, urging an immediate end to violence against the Rohingya people, in the interest of peace and stability in the region; offer relief and rehabilitation assistance to the affected people through international agencies; issue a public statement demonstrating its clear interest in addressing the situation faced by the Rohingya people and ensuring peace and stability in the region; and call a debate or session in Parliament to explain the position of the Government of Sri Lanka urging for non-violence and peace building in Myanmar. Sri Lanka has enjoyed a long and mutually supportive relationship with Myanmar, including religious ties that bind us. Even as we proceed towards reconciliation within Sri Lanka after decades of our own war and conflict we have a duty to stand by the government of Myanmar and its people in their time of need.