Aquino gov’t also criticized
March 13, 2013
Multisectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and its allied organizations again picketed the Malaysian embassy today and renewed calls for an immediate end to the crackdown against Filipinos in Sabah. Bayan held the protest rally amid reports of human rights violations in the course of Malaysian offensive against the Sulu Royal Army. There have been serious allegations of abuses by Malaysian forces such as arbitrary arrests, beatings and even extrajudicial killings.
The group again condemned the Malaysian military and police operations against Filipinos in Lahad Datu and other affected areas which have displaced thousands of Filipinos in Sabah. It likewise pressed Malaysian officials to allow independent parties including foreign media to investigate reports of human rights abuses and to provide all forms of humanitarian assistance for Filipinos.
While some media groups, according to reports, were able to visit a Filipino refugee camp in Malaysia, they were prevented from interviewing the victims. The facility was also being guarded by Malaysian police. “Malaysia must stop the crackdown. It must stop targeting Filipino civilians,” Bayan said.
Meanwhile, Bayan also criticized the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for saying that they will still have to validate the claims of abuses before they can act on them. “At this point of the crisis, when an innocent Filipino is likely being ill-treated in Sabah even as we speak, the DFA statement is gravely tactless, to say the least. Our countrymen, including their children, risked life and limb by sailing from Sabah to flee from the abusive Malaysian forces and then the government will tell them to make a formal written statement first? Why is the burden of proof still on the refugees? It seems that their suffering is still not enough. The heartlessness of this administration is unbelievable!” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
Reyes added that many of the refugees will probably refuse to write a formal statement because they are still hoping to return to their communities in Sabah. “It is understandable that many of them will not sign a formal statement out of fear that the document can be used against them by Malaysian authorities. We are sure that as soon as the crisis subsides, those who fled Sabah will return because of lack of livelihood in Tawi-Tawi or Sulu. But it does not mean that just because they could document the abuses, their harrowing experiences are fiction,” argued Reyes.
Bayan pointed out that if the DFA and Aquino administration truly stand for the rights and interests of Filipinos in Sabah, they will immediately make a strong statement of condemnation against the abuses, demand to stop the military attacks, probe the allegations of atrocities and make those involved liable. “Sadly, we have not heard any of these from Malacañang or the DFA. Affected Filipinos in Sabah are twice oppressed – once by the Malaysian government and another by its own Philippine government,” Reyes said. ###