OIC Communique on Rohingya Crisis

The open-ended Extra-ordinary Executive Committee of the OIC convened at the Permanent Representative level on 5th August 2012 at OIC Headquarters to discuss the critical situation of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority under the chairmanship of Mr.Bakhyt Batyrshayev, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kazakhstan to OIC. After a round of discussions, the Committee;

Proceeding from the principles and objectives of the Charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and pursuant to the resolutions on the question of Muslim Minorities and Communities;

Stressing the need to respect the universally accepted human rights and norms and principles of international humanitarian law;

Condemning the continued disregard of international law by Myanmar and its detrimental implications for regional and global peace, stability and security;

Appreciating the efforts of the OIC Group on Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in Geneva to highlight the Rohingya issue in line with the Secretary General’s proposals;

Commending highly the efforts of the  Secretary General  to resolve the issue of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar by convening this extra-ordinary executive committee and his early and timely response to the situation in Arakan particularly by communicating to the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ASEAN Secretary General, EU High Representative, President of Myanmar and Chairperson of National League for Democracy, and expressing concern to governments in the region particularly with the  People’s Republic of China during his recent visit;

Welcoming Catherine Ashton’s statement on July 22, 2012 stating the EU is closely monitoring acts of violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar and will be dispatching experts from the European Community Humanitarian office (ECHO) to Myanmar to determine the urgent needs of the Muslims. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’, Navi Pillay, statement on July 27th,   2012 claiming that Muslim Communities in Arakan State were being targeted by Myanmar security forces and the announcement of sending a special rapporteur to Myanmar. The Visit by Vijay Nambiear, Special Adviser on Myanmar to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to Arakan state in Myanmar after the violence erupted.

Having listened to the speech of the OIC Secretary General, the presentation of Dr.Wakar Uddin, Director General of Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU), and to the interventions of Head of Delegations,

1. Condemns in the strongest possible terms the brutal aggression and systematic gross violations of human rights committed by armed gangs and encouraged by the authorities and condemns in particular the involvement of security forces and their instigation in the clashes by the Myanmar authorities and Buddhist against innocent unarmed Muslim civilians;

2. Emphasizes that the atrocities committed against Rohingya minority in Myanmar including killing, razing houses, forced eviction, forced labor in harsh conditions, summary executions, rape, torture have approached the crime of genocide and represent a serious threat to international peace and security and regional stability, as clearly demonstrated by the recent violence. It is a serious crime against humanity, and a blatant breach of international law, which needs to receive proper reaction by the international community through bringing Myanmar authorities who are responsible for these heinous acts to justice;

3. Reiterates its firm and unwavering demand for an immediate halt of the unlawful acts of crimes against humanity perpetrated towards Rohingya in Myanmar  and the opening of Myanmar borders to allow for unfettered humanitarian access;

4. Highlights the United Nations Declaration that the “Rohingya are a linguistic, religious, ethnic minority from western Burma”.

5. Calls upon the Myanmar authorities and Rakhine Buddhists to abstain from the use of force and violence and give precedence to peaceful resolutions through dialogue towards national unity.

6. Recommends;

a)     Member States to support the United Arab Emirate’s call for a special session of the Human Rights Council and urgently request to file a collective complain to the UNHRC urgently requesting to dispatch a Commission of Inquiry. The council should also ask Myanmar to cooperate fully with the Commission and to take measures to ensure the accountability of all violations of human rights in order to prevent their repetition and continue to monitor the situation.

b)     Request the OIC Secretary General and Member States to explore all possible means through engagements with the United Nations including tabling of a Rohingya Muslim specific resolution in the 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly at the 66th Session of the UNGA.

c)      Member States request the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) to examine the situation of Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar as a priority issue on its agenda requiring immediate attention and action while presenting concrete recommendations to the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) towards addressing the issue in an effective manner.

d)     Call on all Member States and non-Member States and local and international NGOs to provide Humanitarian assistance to Rohingya Refugees as well as to the internally displaced in Myanmar.

e)     OIC Member States to use their diplomatic contacts at the highest level to help alleviate the sufferings of the Muslim population of Arakan.

f)       Urges OIC Member States, international organizations, along with Islamic and international civil society organizations to move promptly and provide necessary and urgent humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya people and to assist them in surmounting this grave crisis, in line with the statement issued by the OIC Secretary General in which he appealed to OIC Member States and humanitarian international organizations to do so.

g)       Decides to establish an OIC contact group in close coordination with Arakan Rohingya Union composed of all ASEAN Member States who are Member States of the OIC (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia) along with a representative of ASEAN Secretary General and OIC Secretary General. The rest of the membership will be decided by consultation between the OIC Secretary General and interested Member States. The group is mandated to consider ways, means, and mechanisms to ensure the halt of human rights violations against Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar and the return of their citizenship rights.

h)     Recommend the Secretary General to appoint a special envoy for this important issue.

i)       OIC Secretary General to submit his report to the 4th Extra-ordinary Summit on 14-15 August 2012 in Makkah Al-Mukaramah and the 39th CFM for necessary actions.

j)       Send a High- level OIC Representative to Myanmar stand-alone and/or with the OIC Contact Group in Naypidaw.

k)       Requests the UN Secretary General to intensify UN activities in order to immediately and unconditionally halt the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and alleviate their suffering;

l)     Requests the OIC Group in Geneva to follow up the request of the United Arab Emirates’ call for a special session of the Human Rights Council and ensure all OIC Member states to play a positive role in adopting all recommendations specifically a Commission of Inquiry;

m)  Call upon world leaders to speak out against these crimes against humanity and urge the Myanmar Government to eliminate the discriminatory law and any other discriminatory practices against the Rohingya people.

n)     OIC Member States to remain seized on this matter and requests the Secretary General to provide progress reports on the matter.

What does it mean to be British

I am a sports fan and love watching the Olympics. It symbolises all the best in the human sporting excellence and dedication and somehow also represents an opportunity to hit a pause button (rightly or wrongly) on world affairs, as for about two weeks much of the world’s focus is on the athletes.

I see the Olympics as a great opportunity to learn and understand from each other, as athletes engage with people from countries they probably would never engage with, and a time for reflection as the Olympic Truce is observed for about 100 days. Finally, it is a time for learning, as you actually discover countries that you have not even heard of. Politics, corporate sponsorship, tickets aside, the Olympics is probably one of the more unifying events around the world.
When the Olympics was awarded to London, I remember the excitement that greeted it, followed by the sudden realisation of reality as the next day, the 7/7 terrorist attacks took place. In the seven years since, the Olympics’ engagement with communities took a back seat in some respects as security took a higher priority.

For the Muslim community in particular, the scrutiny of radicalisation and constant obsession with identity and affiliation has meant that they have been justifying themselves to the British public. This is a shame as many Muslims in London reside close to the main Olympic parks and thus perhaps have not been able to fully participate in the pre-program as they should have with the hope that they can enjoy the social regeneration that is anticipated afterwards.

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Sri Lanka’s Path to Peace

Sri Lanka’s Path to Peace

After 26 years of war that cost thousands of innocent lives, the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has brought Sri Lanka to a crossroads.

Reconstruction, resettlement and rehabilitation will be the immediate postwar challenges and will have to be expertly handled. Reconstruction of infrastructure will be the easiest and most attractive option for donors, but creating an environment of equity and social justice could be relegated to the bottom of the list. There must be a separate effort to ensure reconciliation between people. Many barriers have been erected between Sri Lanka’s communities and special programmes to build bridges, facilitate interfaith interaction and regain intercommunity trust are urgently required.

This is the role that the Sri Lankan diaspora as a whole will need to play to bring about a reconciliation that combines human values with an understanding of the need to move away from apportioning blame

To read the full article, please click here

The Ramifications of the Channel 4 Documentary on Sri Lanka’s Reconciliation

The Ramifications of the Channel 4 Documentary on Sri Lanka’s Reconciliation

The recently telecast Channel 4 documentary on ‘Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ sheds no new light (despite claims to the contrary), in terms of groundbreaking evidence, regarding the incidents related to the end of the war in Sri Lanka. If anything, it will seek to entrench already hardened attitudes and decrease the ever reducing space for dialogue and reconciliation.

From the government’s perspective, it will seek to discredit the documentary as fake as it feeds into the insecurity that it surrounds itself with, of a perception that the west has been influenced by a highly successful pro LTTE lobby. The end result will be the securing of its ‘credibility’ especially as a ‘victim of an external conspiracy’ consequently rallying the people’s sympathy, thereby making any genuine attempt to hold the government accountable for anything fruitless.

On the other side, for the pro LTTE lobby (largely represented by their supporters in the UK, US and Canada) this will be a ‘vindication’ of their claims regarding the Government and its conduct of the war, thereby serving to boost their movement and support whilst ignoring the part that they have played in fund raising and supporting the LTTE (despite the proscription of the LTTE as a terrorist group).

Iraq: 10 Years On, Better or Worse Off?

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by the United States, Britain and their allies. According to former leaders, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was, “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people”. However, the UN Security Council did not agree with the American and British justifications to go to war with Iraq. France, China, Russia and a major part of the International Community didn’t believe that an Iraq reeling from 13 years of sanctions posed an imminent threat to its people or to neighbouring countries.

After the invasion the US and its allies committed a number of catastrophic policy blunders, rendering the promise of democracy, human rights and social and economic development into nothing more than empty rhetoric. Firstly, the policy of “winning hearts and minds” was supplanted by the military strategy of ‘shock and awe’. Second, there was direct military rule instead of handing full sovereignty to the new Iraqi leadership. Furthermore, instead of a prudent policy of restructuring the already viable and effective security and military institutions, the standing network of establishments were destroyed, leaving 140 thousand American troops to do the job of policing 30 million people, with catastrophic results.

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22 years and still waiting

World Refugee Day took place on June 20. For many it was about remembering the plight of many people worldwide, who today are without rights, a state and an identity. One may picture the plight of Palestinians or Kurds or perhaps the Rohingyas of Myanmar. However, it is often very easy to forget those whose plights do not make the headlines. Cambodia, South Sudan and so on offer us reminders that the plight of people who are without a state and rights are important and need to be at the top of the agenda, which is effectively what World Refugee Day chooses to highlight.

Sri Lanka is no stranger to the issues of refugees. After enduring almost 30 years of war, it has seen its fair share of internal displacements and humanitarian crises. Currently under international scrutiny for not only how the war ended in 2009 but its treatment of nearly 300,000 refugees mainly of Tamil origin, it is easy to forget that there are other communities within Sri Lanka (mainly from the majority Sinhala and minority Muslim community) that have also been victims of the conflict. In light of the current international scrutiny about internally displaced people (IDP) and refugees in Sri Lanka, very little has been said in particular about the Muslim refugees who for the past 22 years, have been consigned to staying in welfare camps in the north west of the country.

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3 Years on: A Hurting Stalemate in Sri Lanka

Last month saw the official marking of three years after the end of the 28 year old war that plagued Sri Lanka, killing thousands and setting the country back in terms of development and prosperity.  Yet three years on, it seems that not much has changed.

Whilst Sri Lanka has tried to portray that there has been progress made on the ground largely in infrastructural development, critics have been quick to highlight the lack of tangible progress on reconciliation, in effect  the inertia on implementing internal recommendations for reconciliation, coupled with an ever weakening space for human rights, media expression and democratic freedom.   The recent resolutions at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on Sri Lanka have been testimony to this type of thinking where analysts have not only been critical that progress has been slow on the ground amidst a decline in general rights that are deemed to be core to a functioning democracy, but they have also pointed to the need to keep this on the international agenda.

This is a debatable fact and the Government is not really willing to engage on any real discussion on the issue despite the occurrences as reported in the media of kidnappings and killings. A recent interview between the defence secretary and the BBC is testimony to the extremely sensitive nature of such discussions and criticisms.

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Victoria and Abdul: A friendship ahead of its time

I am a self-confessed history geek who loves nothing better than to get into a story from the past — especially one that is as relevant to today’s policy discussions and societal concerns as it was when it first occurred.

photos 1.jpgFew stories, however, have managed to tick all the boxes for me as well as the story of Victoria and Abdul.  When I first came across the book Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, written by Shrabani Basu, it was an innocent interest in a historical story that made me venture in, but by the time I was finished, I was convinced that this was something greater.  It is what prompted me to convince our organisation to feature it in the launch of our new Cordoba Heritage Series, which kicked off on the 10th of May 2012.

Even for those of us who have at one stage or another studied Victorian history, this is a relatively unknown story.

In June 1887 two Indian servants were sent to Queen Victoria as a present for her Golden Jubilee. One was the 24-year-old Abdul Karim. Young Karim immediately caught the Queen’s eye and was rapidly promoted to become her Indian Secretary in 1894. He cooked her curries, became her Hindustani tutor and delighted the elderly Queen with his stories about India, especially as she had not visited the sub-continent despite having the grand title of ‘Empress of India’, and soon became the lonely monarch’s closest companion.

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History in the making, as written by the youth

It might be a cliche and often an elaborate exaggeration to term a particular event “historic”. However, few can doubt that along with the Civil Rights movements, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions that have swept through the Arab world are no less momentous or historic.

While the first decade of the millennium got off to a bad start with the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the ramifications which resulted in death, destruction, war, conflict, fear, and division across the world, the second decade seems to have started off with an entirely different theme.

The “Arab Spring” fully deserves to be labelled “historic” for two main reasons.

The first is that the sweeping changes and transformations taking place were totally and completely unexpected, and almost without any introductions or preliminary phases.

Speaking to a political analyst from Tunisia, where the tidal wave commenced in January this year, he assured me that despite his expert knowledge and close following of Tunisian politics and society, he could never have predicted what then happened. The same is true for Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and other locations throughout the Arab world.

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