Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has hit out at Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin over his reaction to a video clip of Rohingya children begging from road users, accusing him of further stoking xenophobia against the group.
Hamzah had said that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cardholders should not be stubborn but should understand that their situation is that of a refugee.
Adding that they hold only UNHCR cards, he said they should not view Malaysia as a “cemetery” country.
“We only help on humanitarian grounds but don’t become big-headed as I do not like anyone to think they are above our laws.
“We do not want any other problems to arise, like the incident at a traffic light in Kuala Lumpur where members of the public were insulted. This shouldn’t be happening in our country,” hs had said.
LFL coordinator Zaid Malek questioned Hamzah’s choice of language, saying the minister had escalated the issue to the point of implying that all Rohingya refugees are “big-headed” or “problematic”.
“What kind of ministerial criticism is ‘big-headed’? Are there no ‘big-headed’ Malaysians? Are we all angels that we chastise an entire race?”
In a statement, he said to brand an entire race as Hamzah had done “amounts to racism by any defintion”.
As home minister, Zaid said Hamzah should have been more discerning instead of further stoking xenophobia against the Rohingya.
“He should have been more concerned about whether the children were being exploited, and about the underlying causes that led the children to resort to begging in the first place,” he said.
Adding that there are no frameworks that safeguard the physical and economic well-being of refugees in Malaysia, he said they are “extremely vulnerable” to exploitation and resort to whatever means they can find to survive.
As a person in a position of power in the government, he said, Hamzah should use his position to accord Rohingya refugees the necessary protection and assistance instead of giving “scathing comments” on an entire group based on a video showing the actions of two children.