Police open probe on hate speech content against Rohingya refugees

Minister reminds all Malaysians to remain calm and compassionate as tensions flare between local residents and Rohingya refugees


SENIOR Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the police are currently investigating a gush of Rohingya-related content online that have created a series of misconceptions fuelling public fear and stigma against the refugees.

He also reminded all Malaysians to remain calm and compassionate as tensions flare between local residents and Rohingya refugees.

“The police are investigating this matter. There have been a lot of news, videos and audios shared online that have increased feelings of hostility toward the Rohingyas. In the meantime, I hope the people can remain calm,” Ismail Sabri said at his daily briefing yesterday.

“Malaysia is a peaceful country and we are a nation that is very compassionate of all living things on this land. Let the police do their part and investigate the matter further,” he added.

“The Rohingya issue is not something new. We’ve even publicly expressed solidarity and our sympathy against their plight in the past. It is only during the Movement Control Order (MCO) that this became a problem.”

His comment came amid a wave of hate speech on social media aimed at the Rohingya community, after rights activists criticised Malaysia for turning away a boat full of refugees.

It was reported that a Malaysian surveillance aircraft prevented a boat, carrying about 200 Rohingya refugees, from entering Malaysian waters, forcing the boat back into waters off southern Thailand. The air force said it feared that the group of refugees might bring the coronavirus into the country.

The United Nations Refugee Agency in a statement last week said those who have fled Myanmar by boat face a dire, and in many cases fatal predicament at sea, and countries in the region should allow them to disembark on humanitarian grounds despite the coronavirus health crisis.

Separately, Ismail Sabri said the police have no jurisdiction to determine if a person will be taken to court for trial. He was responding to a question on claims there were separate standard operating procedures for MCO violators.

“It is not up to the police to decide (whether someone is taken to court). What they will do is, they will take the statement of the offender and send the investigation paper to the Attorney General’s Chamber where a decision will be made whether to take the case to court or not,” he said.

As of April 26, a total of 20,617 individuals have been arrested for flouting MCO restrictions. On Sunday, the police arrested 606 individuals, out of which, 556 were remanded and 50 made bail. Twenty-two individuals were charged in court.

Meanwhile, Ismail Sabri announced that the Enhanced MCO (EMCO) at two areas in Simpang Renggam have been lifted effective today. The EMCO at Hulu Langat involving a religious school and a house has been extended by another week to May 4.

On the movement of students, Ismail Sabri said a total of 1,128 students returned to their homes yesterday. Another 265 students will make their move today.

The government has expressed its appreciation to Marrybrown Sdn Bhd and Gardenia Bakeries (KL) Sdn Bhd for their contribution in providing food. Companies are welcomed to reach out to the Ministry of Higher Education if they are interested in contributing to the movement in any form.