BEING FRANK: 'Iron Lady’ goes soft over the Rohingya

As published in Malay Mail today

By Frankie D'Cruz

SO inflammatory is the Rohingya issue that Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to raise it.
Why the Nobel Peace Laureate won’t say the word “Rohingya” is beyond grasp.
This human rights defender wrote an article in early 2012 titled Word power: “Words allow us to express our feelings, to record our experiences, to concretise our ideas, to push outwards the frontiers of intellectual exploration.
“Words can move hearts, words can change perceptions.
“Words can set nations and peoples in powerful motion.
“Words are an essential part of the expression of our humanness.
“To curb and shackle freedom of speech and expression is to cripple the basic right to realise our full potential as human beings.”
Brian Pellot, writing for Religion News Service, asked in an article last year: “This word, ‘Rohingya’, clearly has power. So why won’t Suu Kyi use it?”
A political analyst with access to her relayed one of their conversations to Pellot: “I am not silent because of political calculation,” she reportedly told him.
“I am silent because whoever’s side I stand on, there will be more blood.
“If I speak up for human rights, they (the Rohingya) will only suffer. There will be more blood.”
When a symbol of the struggle for human rights says speaking up for victims is dangerous, fighting discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws is a lost cause.
By showing disregard to fellow human beings, that same person becomes party to crimes against those suppressed.
Suu Kyi isn’t normally someone we would call destructive to society but in the persecution of the Rohingya, she comes across as someone knocked unconscious, thrown head-first onto a concrete floor.
Silence is never the answer and Suu Kyi doesn’t deserve the red carpet treatment she gets worldwide as a human rights champion.
Many are vexed by her being entirely out of character.
She has lost human relationship and trust and that could be because her political ambitions would be disorientated if she spoke up.
But that could also happen is she remained silent.
Suu Kyi, who has turned things around for her country and inspired generations of global thinkers, once said: “A politician thinks of the next elections. A statesman thinks of the next generation.”
That would mean her priority is her party, the National League for Democracy, and not the Rohingya issue.
Are we going to regard her global stature that offers her the unique potential to transcend, or rather circumvent, national politics to change policy or are we going cut her some slack over her stand as no more than differences of opinion? 
Suu Kyi’s silence on one of today’s gravest humanitarian crises is bare naked insult to the people whose support gave her credibility and had counted on her to bring lasting peace to marginalised minorities and a diverse, divided, yet still fledgling democracy.
As Pellot says, she has a moral duty to attempt to do so from the sidelines and must capitalise on her role as a global stateswoman.
“If she cares about her country (and her legacy), she must speak out against the atrocities unfolding within it, atrocities that the government flat out denies.
“More seriously, it leaves the lives and destinies of unprotected minorities in jeopardy.”
Mandela once said “there are times when a leader must move ahead of his flock” and Pellot couldn’t have put it better: “For Suu Kyi’s legacy, for Myanmar’s future, for the fate of the Rohingya, this is certainly one of those times.
“If she fails to do so, her disappointing place among her flock will be secured.”

FRANKIE is editor emeritus of  Malay Mail. He can be reached at or on Twitter @dcruzfrankie


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