‘Shallow’ Umno chief shelled over Sri Lanka row
An Umno division leader has come under fire for accusing DAP Klang MP Charles Santiago of stoking religious sentiments pertaining to the government’s stand on the war in Sri Lanka.
According to Santiago, Cheras Umno chief Syed Ali Alhabshee suffers from ignorance and his analysis is “clouded by religion and race”.
“He will be shocked to realise there are strong similarities between the occupation and plight of Palestinians and Tamils in Sri Lanka and the people of Burma,” he said in a statement today.
Syed Ali had cautioned Santiago in response to an Utusan Malaysia report on May 28 which featured the opposition MP’s comments under the heading ‘Sri Lanka: Malaysia dituduh pilih kasih‘. (Sri Lanka: Malaysia accused of double standards).
Santiago said he had suggested that Malaysia’s position on the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka reeked of double standards during a Bar Council forum last week.
“I criticised Malaysia’s opposition to an UN human rights council resolution demanding an investigation on the allegations of human rights abuses and to ensure the freedom of displaced people and access to drinking water and sanitation in Sri Lanka.
“Malaysia’s foreign minister (Anifah Aman) argued that the government’s decision was premised on the notion of non-interference in another country’s internal affairs,” he said.
Santiago said he countered this reasoning by asking why then was Malaysia and Asean pressuring the Burmese military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi and initiate democratic reforms in the country.
“Also, why does the Malaysian government lobby against Israel at the UN and other international fora in support of the Palestinian cause for self-determination and an autonomous home-land.
“Aren’t these activities interfering in the internal affairs of another nation and promoting the right to self determination of oppressed people?” he added.
‘Exposes a shallow mindset’
In view of this, Santiago said it was ‘silly’ of Syed Ali to construe these criticisms as stoking racial sentiments.
“It exposes a shallow mindset and failure to understand history, ethnic conflict and struggle for self-determination of an oppressed community,” he said.
Syed Ali had argued that Malaysia as an active member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference has a responsibility to help the Palestinians.
The Umno leader also argued that the Palestinian cause was a religious one since Muslims were being oppressed by the Israeli regime.
He further suggested that the situation in Sri Lanka was based on a minority group fighting for power through armed struggle and the Malaysian government has never supported armed struggles to form a government.
However, Santiago (right) disagreed.
He said the Palestinians, Burmese and the Tamils in Sri Lanka share a common fate: they are an occupied people.
Their struggle for self-determination and autonomous homeland needs to be supported by all, he added.
“A consistent foreign policy suggests that the government would have extended the same support to the Tamils in Sri Lanka where the government was unleashing genocide against the minority.
“The Malaysian government chose to support the perpetrator and thus the criticism of double standards,” he said.
Consistent foreign policy needed
Santiago noted that a further similarity between the Palestinians and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was that both are considered terrorist organisations.
“Why do these groups take up arms?” he asked.
“Since the 1950s, Tamils were systematically denied their constitutional rights, language, education, jobs, business, state-sponsored land grabs, etc.
“State violence was directed at Tamils. Ethnic cleansing was part of state policy. In 1983, one of the worst cases of violence against Tamils witnessed about 3,000 Tamils massacred and about 20,000 businesses destroyed,” he said.
“The upsurge of violence against Tamils resulted in the armed resistance led by the LTTE and others,” he added.
Santiago stressed that what the Palestinians, Burmese and Tamils in Sri Lanka are fighting against is state-sponsored terrorism.
“I urge the Umno chief not to politicise and further dehumanise victims of genocide. It is certainly not the time to suggest that one cause is holier than the other.
“This is a time where women and men of all colour, creed and believe unite against tyranny. This is a time for moral leadership among nations and not opportunistic policy making,” he said.
“I urge Syed Ali to push for war crime trials against the Sri Lankan government as a way of promoting justice for Palestinians,” he added.
The DAP leader also underscored the importance for Malaysia to have a consistent and enlightened foreign policy and not bigotry.