“We cannot assist refugees if we cannot address our own problems first”

Editor’s note: This is a rebuttal by the author in response to a FocusM article published yesterday (Sept 17) titled PPBM leader slammed for “baseless, racist, politicking” of Rohingyas.

REGARDING the issue of the recent article that was published by Malaysiakini, I believe that my statement was taken out of context.

This is the full article in question that was referred to:

The refugee issue in Malaysia – Has it been solved?

There have always been discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of the refugee situation in Malaysia.

When we welcome refugees and provide them with the support they require, it reflects favourably on Malaysia. However, the matter is debated when locals find it challenging to socialise with and accept these refugees’ lifestyles.

The Rohingya refugees who arrived in Malaysia and requested assistance in the form of protection and a place to live, for instance, is the subject that has stirred up the internet in recent years.

There are several things the Government could do to meet the needs of the citizens of our nation while also providing aid to the refugees. Firstly, the Government should look into educating the citizens and refugees in terms of the differences that exist under specific circumstances.

For instance, the refugees must be taught about the boundaries that Malaysians appreciate. The common issues are the cleanliness and the way the refugees converse with the locals. Locals find it to be disrespectful and unacceptable.

Either party cannot be held accountable because the problem is more of a result of cultural differences than intentional.

Thus by educating both parties, we could ensure that awareness be raised to minimise any misunderstandings and mitigate the challenges of socialising and working with refugees.

Secondly, I believe that there should be ground rules in terms of how long the migrants (sic) will be staying in our country.

“Safe nationality and citizenship”

Despite Malaysia’s efforts to assist refugees, the satisfaction of the citizens of our country depends in large part on their nationality and citizenship; the reason is that safe nationality and citizenship are essential components of Malaysia’s outstanding integrity.

After all, Malaysians take great pride in their heritage and culture.

When refugees claim our nation as their home, it is important to identify their status and provide them with an official statement to instill in them a sense of patriotism for our nation.

In the long run, the discussion and conclusion pertaining on issues of job opportunities must also be addressed and settled as more and more people seek refuge in our country.

However, the Government must first cater to Malaysians and fix internal economical issues in our country to increase job opportunities for the people of this country.

Only when there are enough jobs can we increase the opportunity to give the refugees a chance to build their life here as well.

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that an increasing number of individuals are being impacted by global changes, such as the passing of Queen Elizabeth and climate change.

More refugees will enter the country as a result of changes in the political and economic climate, which could lead to anarchy if not properly managed.

As a result, the Government must be ready for unforeseen events and outside influences in order to prevent chaos.

It won’t be long before the problem of refugees is hotly debated once more. To safeguard the welfare of our population, actions must be made in the political, economic, and social spheres.

This also exercises control and will make sure that the reputation of the nation is not tarnished because of a sensitive matter like this.

My additional response

Additionally, this is my response to the Malaysiakini and FocusM articles quoting my statement:

I think that everything that was written was generally pretty arbitrary. My writings have been altered in order to more conveniently advance their objective.

Nevertheless, I still hold to the belief that Malaysians should always come first in the place we call home.

The truth is that we cannot assist refugees if we cannot address our own problems, such as lowering the poverty rate among our own people.

While I support creating a peaceful coexistence between the country’s residents and refugees, I also wish to protect Malaysians from being forgotten, abandoned or put through hardships simply because we “want to help” others.

The truth is that when it comes to refugees, all of the major factors that have an impact on a nation – the political, economic, and social parts of it – will be at play.

It is extremely unflattering to alter all three of these things, explicitly cater to the demands and needs of refugees and ignore the citizens of our nation. – Sept 18, 2022


Mahathir Mohd Rais is the Segambut division chief for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) and Federal Territories Perikatan Nasional (PN) information chief.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia. 


Main photo credit: Bernama

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