A tragedy within a tragedy



25 Apr 2022 11:31am
Two Rohinghyas escapees recaptured by D7 police officers Remabi Relau River around 10pm on April 20. (Source: BERNAMA)
Two Rohinghyas escapees recaptured by D7 police officers Remabi Relau River around 10pm on April 20. (Source: BERNAMA)

Many have said that the riot which took place at the Sungai Bakap depot at 4.30am on April 20 last week in Seberang Perai, Penang should have not happened.

Not only that, the tragedy had ended with another tragedy when six of the 528 Rohingyans escapees were fatally struck by vehicles as they attempted to cross the North-South Expressway in the wee hours of the morning.

Out of the six killed were three men, three women and two children aged eight and nine.

Police managed to recapture 398 of the inmates in less than 24 hours after the breakout.

Kedah police chief Commissioner Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad said police had arrested two suspects on Thursday, believed to be the masterminds who allegedly incited the riot.

The police had also formed a special task force to investigate the incident and questioned personnel from the Immigration Department and the People's Volunteer Corps who were manning the depot when the incident took place.

However, that is not what the people want to hear. What they want to know is whether the the department’s detention centres housing undocumented immigrants were overcrowded and in unacceptable conditions, as claimed.

The Immigration Department needs to address this issue by giving a straightforward explanation to the public.

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If the claims are untrue, be transparent and show the public the conditions of the rooms housing the immigrants so that the people know the truth and facts to the matter.

If claims by the many non-governmental organisations and Suhakam are indeed true, then what are the immediate and long-term steps that need to be taken to overcome the issue? A behaviour that is still being practiced and woven into the Malaysian culture is the act of not coming clean, especially when it involves public interest.

It is understood that the Immigration Department is one of the departments involved in national security thus not everything can be revealed.

However, when incidents like this happen, the public are seeking for a transparent and truthful communication by the authorities - not just a four-paragraph statement, which has angered many.

The department should have taken responsibility to explain the steps taken to ensure there are no repeats of this incident.

What happened last week was the 10th incident where immigrants have escaped from the detention centres since 1999.

The fact that so many inmates were determined to escape from the detention centres showed that something was wrong with the place they were being held.

From a bigger perspective, there should be a serious initiative at the international level on how to overcome this problem with Rohingya refugees because just like the Kurds, Rohingya is a stateless ethnic group.

They are not accepted by Myanmar or Bangladesh and unlike other ethnicities that migrated to our country, they have a problem adapting to the locals.

Hence, the locals have been skeptical about accepting them.

If the number of Rohingyans in the country grows even bigger, there will one day be a social crisis not only for the locals but also towards them.

While this can still be addressed, we need a dedicated team at a national level to overcome and solve the issue.

In the meantime, the Immigration Department should be given the appropriate allocation to enhance the current depots for illegal immigrants.

The public does not want a repeat of what has happened, and they have a right to be worried about their safety especially after what happened with Long Tiger.

"Back and Forth" is a column by Rozaid Rahman, who is Sinar Karangkraf Group Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer.

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