By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Dear Ms. Suu Kyi,
For more than a decade, as a concerned human rights activist, I have worked towards release of political prisoners like you and democratization of Burma (Myanmar). It was good to see that the new regime had the wisdom to eventually release you with so many others that were put behind the bars for no fault of theirs except that they demanded what is morally right and good for Burma. I am also glad that you along with 43 others of the NLD were able to participate in the April by-election and win. It was a great win for the people. A hearty congratulations to you and your party.
People’s expectations are high with such positive developments inside Burma. They like to believe that with your voice heard inside the lower house of the parliament their decades-old grievances would now be aired and you would do your utmost to bring about equality, fairness and justice so that no one irrespective of his/her ethnic or religious backgrounds would be treated unfairly in new Burma. For years, the military government had exploited intolerance of the ‘other’ people to further divide and rule the country. As you may, therefore, expect, no country in the world is as much poisoned by the evils of racism and bigotry as Burma is.
The latest pogrom against the Rohingyas of Burma once again underscore the fault line along race, ethnicity and religion. I am simply shocked to observe how an act of murder of a Rakhine woman by a criminal could trigger race- and religious riots in which ten innocent Muslims (from Rangoon proper and not Rakhine State) were mercilessly lynched by a mob of 300 hateful Rakhine extremists. If in our world such lone acts of violence by criminal elements within a society were to lay the very foundation and justification for lynching of an entire community, there won’t be any human being left alive on earth. And yet, that simple wisdom seemed to have missed the Rakhine leadership who stoked hatred of the Rohingya.
One would have expected that in new Burma with you leading the opposition camp in the Parliament, and the new government promising change, Burma would have said sayonara (good-bye) to such ugly displays of intolerance. As you well know, not only did not the local Rakhine leadership and security forces and police come to the aid of those innocent victims when they could have stopped the carnage, they simply rekindled the fire by attacking and firing upon unarmed peaceful Rohingya demonstrators in the Rakhine state. As the later evidences suggest that the Rakhine fascist leadership had tried to exploit the event as its Reichstag Fire moment to not only terrorize the Rohingya minorities so that they would have no choice but exodus out of the Rakhine state to nearby Bangladesh or elsewhere but also to secede from the rest of Burma. In the meantime, hundreds of Rohingya villages have been set on fire, affecting the precious lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya, already recognized throughout the world as the most persecuted community in our globe. Probably hundreds have also died in this latest pogrom. I am simply appalled and horrified by the monstrosity of such naked aggression against the Rohingyas and Muslims of Burma.
Dear leader, the world looks up to you as a moral voice of conscience, and not as a Bamar supremacist. You cannot allow the voices of intolerance within your party and the country to define you. Sadly, the activities of some of the leaders of the NLD had been anything but desirable. In his interviews, individuals like Nyo Myint sounded more like an intolerant racist and bigot than a wise spokesman who cares about fairness, equality, truth and justice. Such an intolerant image portrayed by members of your inner circle is unfortunate and would lower goodwill the world community now has for you, your party and your country.
The Rohingya-demand for equality in citizenship rights is a fair one and you must do everything possible to make such a reality. That should create the atmosphere for inclusion away from days of exclusion, which Burma needs desperately. Otherwise, divisive forces would put the nail in the coffin of federal Burma. It must embrace pluralism and cannot live in the past of hatred, racism, xenophobia and bigotry. The sooner the better!
Dr Habib Siddiqui
(a well wisher),