Suu Kyi in­sults with a speech that falls flat on re­as­sur­ing the Ro­hingya

The Sunday Independent - - DISPATCHES - Jas­sat is an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of Media Re­view Network, an ad­vo­cacy group based in Jo­han­nes­burg. IQBAL J AS SAT

STUNG by in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism over her si­lence on the plight of Ro­hingya Mus­lims, Myan­mar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi fi­nally mum­bled a few well-re­hearsed phrases, say­ing noth­ing.

Her short speech, clearly in­tended to sat­isfy West­ern back­ers, was a damp squib. Dubbed as an ad­dress to the na­tion, Suu Kyi failed to as­sure the Ro­hingya that the bru­tal­ity and vi­o­lence against them would not be tol­er­ated by her.

Nor did she an­nounce that her gov­ern­ment had halted all se­cu­rity and mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in the Rakhine re­gion and else­where to im­me­di­ately pre­vent fur­ther vi­o­la­tions by her forces.

Say­ing she “feels deeply” for the suf­fer­ing of “all peo­ple” falls short of ad­dress­ing the core is­sues, which cen­tre on dis­en­fran­chise­ment.

While her choice of words may pro­vide a good “sound bite” for her West­ern and Eastern al­lies, it re­veals a shame­ful at­tempt to re­main de­tached from the vic­tims of her regime’s mil­i­tary crack­down.

Her re­sponse came on the eve of the UN’s an­nual assem­bly of heads of states.

Not sur­pris­ingly, she can­celled her sched­uled ap­pear­ance and opted in­stead to make her dis­ap­point­ing speech to a do­mes­tic au­di­ence, though pitched at the in­ter­na­tional community.

Com­ing un­der in­creased pres­sure and fac­ing crit­i­cism from fel­low No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ates, Suu Kyi can­not but be aware that the hor­rific im­ages of burned bod­ies, slaugh­ter, rape vic­tims, and wan­ton de­struc­tion of vil­lages has had a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on her in­tegrity.

Nor can she feign ig­no­rance about the har­row­ing de­tails which to date have re­sulted in more than 400 000 Ro­hingya flee­ing Myan­mar to Bangladesh, es­cap­ing what the UN has cor­rectly de­scribed as “eth­nic cleans­ing”.

Jour­nal­ists and hu­man rights groups who have been barred from con­duct­ing in­de­pen­dent probes in Rakhine State have now de­scended on the makeshift camps in Bangladesh.

Un­for­tu­nately for her, media and oth­ers in­clud­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions are able to doc­u­ment and pro­vide first-hand re­ports from the mul­ti­tude of vic­tims.

Hor­rific ac­counts of torture, rape and ar­son have shocked the world.

The terrible bru­tal­ity associated with vi­o­lence by the Myan­mar army and se­cu­rity forces led many in­flu­en­tial hu­man rights ac­tivists to con­demn and de­plore the Suu Kyi gov­ern­ment.

As the world re­acts with shock and hor­ror, her in­ad­e­quate speech will fur­ther un­der­mine her cre­den­tials as a “democrat” who is in charge of a regime which has ap­plied apartheid poli­cies.

Her si­lence on the state­less­ness and de­lib­er­ate poli­cies which re­sem­ble a care­fully crafted pogrom to wipe out the Ro­hingya re­veals a great deal of her com­plic­ity in the crimes.

Blam­ing the vic­tims and im­ply­ing that they are re­spon­si­ble for burn­ing their own homes will not wash any longer.

An­a­lysts and re­searchers with a keen interest in Burmese pol­i­tics have dis­missed this as con­trived pro­pa­ganda. And so, too, have ex­iled lead­ers of the Ro­hingya.

Suu Kyi not only dis­cred­ited her­self and has brought the No­bel Peace Prize into dis­re­pute, but her ar­ro­gant state of de­nial raises ques­tions about her com­mit­ment to demo­cratic ideals.

It can be ar­gued that the iconic fame she en­joyed dur­ing her pe­riod of per­se­cu­tion lies in tat­ters.

The op­por­tu­nity to sal­vage some of it has been wasted with her cur­rent lack­lus­tre per­for­mance.

The tragedy en­dured by the Ro­hingya re­quires de­ci­sive ac­tion by a lead­er­ship that val­ues life and jus­tice.

Aung San Suu Kyi has failed mis­er­ably on all counts and thus can­not be trusted to pro­tect Ro­hingya Mus­lims.

Her ridicu­lous of­fer to “ver­ify” Ro­hingya is, apart from cre­at­ing false hope, deeply in­sult­ing for it is akin to brand­ing cat­tle in prepa­ra­tion for slaugh­ter.

A “ver­i­fi­ca­tion” process is sim­ply un­ten­able!

How on earth is it pos­si­ble for a state­less pop­u­la­tion, de­lib­er­ately stripped of their cit­i­zen­ship, whose homes and lands have been re­duced to ashes, who pos­sess only their bod­ies, to be “ver­i­fied”?

If she had en­ter­tained any no­tion that her speech would sti­fle and si­lence her crit­ics, Suu Kyi is mis­taken.

The im­ages and real-life ac­counts of the world’s most per­se­cuted peo­ple will en­sure that their nar­ra­tive pre­vails.


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