What do Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and our yahapalanaya leaders have in common? A wall of silence that is what it is! When Myanmar’s military turned its guns on a community that has long been considered outcasts and denied any semblance of nationhood and went on a burning spree hand in glove with Buddhist hardliners, tens of thousands of Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
It is well known now that a major humanitarian crisis had developed on our doorstep. While the world was crying out for help as it did when thousands of fleeing refugees from North Africa were dying to reach safety on European shores, Aung San Suu Kyi, that angel of peace and compassion, remained silent for days over the plight of the people to whom she had promised reconciliation.
Rohingya refugees pouring into Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
For days nothing was heard from Myanmar’s civilian leader who the west had embraced for decades as the one who had the popular support to turn Myanmar around and establish democratic governance. Eventually when she did speak there was no condemnation of the perpetrators of what the world was beginning to identify as brutal ethnic cleansing. Nor were there any words of compassion, sympathy and hope for the victims who were pouring into Bangladesh with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
While this tragic drama was unfolding to the Northeast of us, a sub plot was being played out in the outskirts of Colombo. Some 30-odd Rohingya asylum seekers, mainly women and children, accommodated in a safe-house by the UNHCR since April this year suddenly came under attack by a mob led by Buddhist monks (one presumes so as they were in saffron robes) who breached the gates and threatened the inmates with violence.
They had finally to be moved to the Boossa detention centre for their safety. Was our yahapalanaya government that is quick to preach ahimsa, metta and karuna moved to utter a few words of sympathy for the victims and prevail on the forces of law and order to act promptly? The silence of the government was deafening.