MARUAH Statement on World Refugee Day (20 June 2019)

25 June 2019

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are more than 70 million displaced persons in the world today, including 25.9 million refugees who are escaping war and persecution. These numbers come at an unprecedented level and represent the desperation of those who have been forced to flee violence at home. On World Refugee Day, MARUAH would like to express solidarity with all the refugees worldwide who are on their arduous and precarious journeys to safety.

Close to home, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has created more than 700,000 refugees since 2017, leading to a refugee crisis in Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s lackluster response to the refugee crisis has been met with international criticism, especially after reports of thousands of refugees being stranded at sea. However, since then, a few countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have provided temporary shelter to the refugees. The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) has also provided relief materials to displaced persons in the Rakhine State, and is currently preparing to aid in repatriation of the refugees. Currently, only two ASEAN states (Cambodia and the Philippines) are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which recognizes the obligations of States to protect the rights of refugees.

In a world of increasing violence and climate-related disasters, addressing the refugee crisis is a global responsibility and an obligation under international law. Refugees are amongst the most vulnerable groups of people in the world and we ought to protect them, not turn our backs against them. As part of the international community, MARUAH believes that Singapore has a responsibility in responding to this humanitarian crisis. MARUAH would also like to sincerely thank all the countries that have warmly received these refugees and given them an opportunity to a better future.

MARUAH Singapore


Electoral Integrity in the 2018 American Elections (PEI-US-2018)

25 June 2019

From Electoral Integrity Project

This report provides an assessment of the performance of all 50 states + DC in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, compared with the 2016 contest. It applies the expert survey methods used since 2012 by the Electoral Integrity Project to measure and compare the quality of contests around the world.

The team of researchers is composed by Professor Pippa Norris, (Director of EIP Harvard/Sydney), Holly Ann Garnett (Royal Military College, Canada), and Max Grömping (Heidelberg University).

PROBLEMS OF ELECTORAL INTEGRITY

Electoral administration in the US has become increasingly partisan and litigious ever since Bush v. Gore in Florida in the 2000 Presidential elections (Hason 2012). Questions have arisen concerning the security, integrity, inclusiveness, convenience, and accuracy of the registration and balloting processes in America.

These issues were documented in the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Electoral Administration, established by President Obama (Bauer and Ginsberg 2014). The Commission reported that contemporary standards of electoral administration were highly uneven across the country.  It recommended a series of practical reforms to the election process.

The Elections Performance Indexconducted in 2014 by the Pew Center and in 2016 by MIT’s Election Data + Science Lab also suggest that states varies in how they performed against a range of quality indicators in the presidential and the mid-term contests.
 
In  2016,  a range of problems arose during the campaign and on polling day, some trivial, others more serious.  Throughout the 2016 presidential election campaign, Donald Trump warned about the risks of widespread fraud, claiming afterwards that millions of votes were cast illegally. The security services reported how the Democratic National Committee computer server was hacked and materials distributed through Wikileaks. In addition, social media were awash with trolls disseminating fake news, misinformation and disinformation (Jamieson 2019). The intelligence community and the Mueller Report subsequently concluded that the culprits were Russian. This led to widespread concern prior to polling day in the 2018 midterm elections that contests remained vulnerable to these security risks, as well as the challenges posed by fake news, voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering and voter fraud. In 2018 Congress allocated additional funds and the Department of Homeland Security cooperated closely with election officials in many states to tighten the security of official registration and voting records.

Moreover the Brennan Center documented how states also introduced many changes to the complex legal framework governing the mosaic of American election procedures. Some states facilitated easier and more convenient processes for citizens, such as ‘automatic’ registration, but others sought to tighten voting security through stricter voting requirements. As argued elsewhere (Norris, Cameron and Wynter 2019), electoral laws in America are seen through a strongly partisan lens, but there are potential bipartisan reforms which can strengthen both inclusion and security, these are not necessarily trade-offs, thereby strengthening public confidence in the process.

On polling day in November 2018, how did state elections perform? Were there improvements in the quality of the voter experience when casting ballots? What evidence allows us to monitor changes over time in each state?

For more details, please visit Electoral Integrity Project’s website at https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/peius2018 .


Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (“PEI”) 7.0 Worldwide Report & Data Set

25 June 2019

From Electoral Integrity Project

Elections should provide opportunities for citizens to participate in politics and hold leaders to account.  When they work well, elections can deepen civic engagement, inform public debate, stimulate party competition, strengthen government responsiveness, and allow the peaceful resolution of political conflict.

The problem is that too often contests fail to achieve these objectives. To assess global trends, the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity expert survey monitors elections worldwide and regionally, across all stages of the electoral cycle.

This report describes the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity dataset (PEI-7.0). The dataset is drawn from a rolling survey of 3,861 expert assessments of electoral integrity across 337 elections in 166 countries around the world.  The cumulative study covers all national presidential and parliamentary elections from July 1, 2012 to December 31, 2018. This annual release adds 53 presidential or parliamentary contests held during 2018.  

Perceptions of electoral integrity are measured by experts in each country one month after polls close. Experts are asked to assess the quality of national elections on eleven sub-dimensions: electoral laws; electoral procedures; district boundaries; voter registration; party registration; media coverage; campaign finance; voting process; vote count; results; and electoral authorities. These items sum to an overall Electoral Integrity Index scored from 0 to 100.  Additional batteries of items are used to monitor specific problems each year. Given widespread concerns about the issue of fake news, online disinformation, and foreign meddling, the 2018 survey focused on issues of campaign media.

For more details, please visit Electoral Integrity Project’s website at https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017 .


Release of UPR Info’s 2018 Annual Report

25 June 2019

In the report, UPR Info summarizes its work over the course of the year through its Pre-sessions, Stakeholders, and In-country (ICP) programmes. The report also identifies points of interest such as its engagement with a wider breadth of stakeholders, new activities, and the push by UPR Info for stronger linkages between the UPR and SDGs. For example, UPR Info  encourages greater participation of children and youth voices as equal stakeholders in the UPR process and detail its initiatives to mainstream gender in all of its work. All in all, last year UPR Info worked across forty-eight countries in its Pre-sessions and ICP workshops with states, civil society organizations, and national human rights institutions in its effort to strengthen engagement with the UPR.

The report is available online here – https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/general-document/pdf/upr_info_2018_annual_report.pdf

UPR Info is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation
headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It aims to raise awareness
of the Universal Periodic Review and to provide capacity-building
tools to all stakeholders, such as UN Member States, civil society,
parliamentarians, media and academics.


UN publishes human rights communications to ASEAN governments ahead of 41st Human Rights Council session

20 June 2019

The United Nations has made public recent urgent appeals and allegations letters sent by its independent human rights experts to ASEAN member states.

Before the start of each of its regular sessions, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) would make public all the letters or appeals that its independent human rights experts (known as Special Procedures mandates) have sent to governments and other actors (such as businesses) regarding individual cases of alleged human rights violations, laws and practices, or thematic issues. The UNHRC’s next session (41th) starts on 24 June 2019.These letters or appeals (known as communications) and any replies from the concerned governments or other actors are published on a searchable database and summarized in a communication report.

For more please visit Ye Shiwei’s post at https://link.medium.com/mjLLIs8cFX.


Joint Statement on ASEAN – ERAT Preliminary Needs Assessment for Repatriation in Rakhine State, Myanmar

20 June 2019

A Whitewash

ASEAN Civil Societies and Rohingya Organisations Issue A Joint Statement on ASEAN – ERAT Preliminary Needs Assessment for Repatriation in Rakhine State, Myanmar

In response to the recent leaked report from ASEAN’s Emergency Response and Action Team (ERAT), a ‘preliminary needs assessment’ which drastically overestimated the ease and equity with which Rohingya can return to Burma, we (Civil Societies from ASEAN and Rohingya Organisations) call upon leaders and representatives from ASEAN nations to insist upon re-evaluation, re-planning, and work towards implementation of a just and safe plan for the Rohingya.

The report at times reads more as if it is designed to please the Government of Myanmar than a product from members of a reputable institution. There is no mention of the well documented genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar security forces that drove 740,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh in 2017. There is no mention of rape, murder, torture, killing of children and the burning of homes. There is no mention of the hundreds of villages burnt as documented in satellite images by HRW and the UN, as well as from first person accounts.  Instead, the report consists of a summary of the technical details of the return process with some minor technical recommendations. Myanmar appears to want to create a new narrative that the conflict was inter-ethnic, that they are ready to accept returnees, conditions are conducive to do so, and that the only obstacle for return is Bangladesh. It seems as if the report was done to help ASEAN member countries to ignore the hurt, pain, harm, loss of lives, loss of dignity caused to the Rohinyga people. This is an erasure of facts. Those agreeing with the report, including ASEAN member countries, will be complicit in this lie. This report will become the cornerstone of the Government of Myanmar’s stance. We say that ASEAN’s credibility is on the line unless they reject the report and distance themselves from it.

These are the facts: approximately 87,000 Rohingya fled after 9th October 2016; a further 740,000 fled after 25th August 2017; a total of 827,000 refugees landed in Bangladesh; and today there are approximately 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Yet this report cites 500,000. We ask where this figure come from and what is the source

The report also makes the false premise that the conflict was inter-ethnic. Most blatantly, there isno mention of Tatmadaw’s disproportionate ‘clearance operations’ or allegations and findings of genocide. While the Border Guard Police (BGP) were responsible for violence in 2017, the report claims that villagers feel safer with high BGP security presence. The report says contrary to common perceptions, ‘The local community actually felt safe with the presence of Border Guard Police (BGP).’ Still in Maungdaw Township and other villages Rohingya and Rakhines work and socialize together, contradicting the assessment team’s simplistic, government informed views that the perceived threats are between communities rather than between security forces and civilians. There is an omission of the fact that the inclusion of border guard police in transit camp management structure heightened fear and risks of abuses against a vulnerable population. Recent events such as security forces firing upon civilians in central and northern Rakhine, clearly, show that security forces pose a greater threat to communities more so than just a just “inconvenient” security.

At the same time, there has been an intense ongoing conflict between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw throughout Rakhine with over 100 clashes since January 2019 and over 30,000 people displaced. This means that any repatriation is unfeasible, but the assessment team chose to omit the fear the Rohingyas are feeling, in the report.

The report also fails to address policies and laws which violate the Rohingya’s fundamental human rights and jeopardize the viability of their return. The report does not address the lack of freedom of movement – people have to possess the right ID card. This card is related to the collection of Biometric Data which is not collected from any other ethnic group in the country. Rohingyas are justifiably suspicious of this, even if the assessment team does not recognise this in the report. For instance, there is the risk this data can be abused by the Government of Myanmar in the future to identify Rohingya who have moved and so transport them back to live only in Rakhine. There is no reference to the fact that the Citizenship Law must be changed based on the report from the Kofi Annan led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Relocation is condoned and there is no mention of the area or land, apriority issue for Rohingya. In addition, the report does not raise access to humanitarian aid, media and international community as these are concern of the Rohingyas.

It is not clear where Relocation Sites will be but according to the plans, they will result in very large villages that will have a problem accessing services and livelihoods especially as most returnees will be paddy farmers. This would mean serious barriers to accessing services and livelihoods. This problem is compounded by the fact that returnees will be resettled in areas away from their original village and cannot access other fields.

When combined, these issues suggest an internment for the Rohingya rather than ‘transit’ camps. We have seen this play out and it continues to this day in central Rakhine State. The underlying unaddressed omission is the fact that it is extremely unlikely that a large number of people will be returning from Bangladesh without significant changes in the situation in Rakhine State.This report deals only with the technical details for an assessment, ignoring the people, their fears, a review of the ‘transit plans’, the administrative processes and accessibility for the Rohingyas. In other words, this report has failed to include crucial facts, ignored the human rights and humanitarian rights of the Rohingyas. It is a propaganda to make the Government of Myanmar look better, that it has plans and setting the stage for any failure of the plans as the fault of the Rohingya and the government of Bangladesh, that is currently carrying this problem for the people

We say:

1.     for the credibility of ASEAN this report should be rejected and not endorsed. If a future comprehensive assessment is agreed upon in it must be in collaboration with UN experts who have the requisite expertise and neutrality.

2.     leaders of ASEAN nations must insist that these issues are raised and addressed by the AHA Centre in order to ensure that the Rohingya can be returned to Burma in a way which is humane and just.

3.     leaders of ASEAN nations must also insist that the Rohingya still living in Burma including 128,000 in IDP camps must have their rights, including citizenship and freedom of movement, restored and protected before plans to relocate the refugee population can begin.

4.     the safety, rights, and dignity of the returned are essential to the viability and longevity of the endeavour of returning Rohingya. Moving forward without these aspects as considerations is unethical, wasteful, and will ultimately leave all stakeholders addressing the same problems down the line as history will repeat itself if not addressed well, now.

If Myanmar ejects addressing these calls, they prove only that they have no interest in solving the problems which their security forces have created, often at the expense of other ASEAN and South Asian nations. It is our sincerest hope that all parties will take the time to come together and re-evaluate moving forward to resolve these issues in a way which considers the safety, rights and dignity of those most affected while taking the time to listen to them directly.

This statement is undersigned by:

1.     ALTSEAN-Burma

2.     Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM)

3.     Arakan Rohingya Development Association-Australia (ARDA-Australia)

4.     Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)

5.     Burmese Muslim Association (BMA)

6.     British Rohingya Community UK

7.     Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)

8.     Burmese Rohingya Association Japan

9.     Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)

10. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisations (CBRO)

11. Central Queensland Rohingya Community

12. Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (CENTHRA)

13. European Rohingya Council (ERC)

14. Global Peace Mission Malaysia

15. Initiative for Human Rights in Asia

16. Komite Nesional Untuk Solidaritas Rohingya (KNSR)

17. MARUAH (Singapore)

18. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (MERHROM)

19. Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan (RANJ)

20. Rohingya Intellectuals Community Association Australia (RICAA)

21. Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM)

22. Rohingya Women Welfare Society (RWWS)

23. Wadah Pencerdasan Umat Malaysia

Media Contact

Kyaw Win

Executive Director

Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)

E: kyawwin78@gmail.com

T: +44(0) 740 345 2378

Razia Sultana

Founder

Rohingya Women Welfare Soceity (RWWS)

E: rsmimi15@gmail.com

T: +880 1818 4666078

Tun Khin

President

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)

E: tunkhin80@gmail.com

T: +44 7376 823227


MARUAH Statement on Hong Kong protests – 13 June 2019

13 June 2019

MARUAH, a Singapore-based human rights organisation, is deeply disappointed at the turn of events in Hong Kong. 

The police actions taken against the protesters on June 12th 2019 were violent, showed a lack of compassion and would add to increasing the tensions between the protesters, the people in Hong Kong and the government of Hong Kong. 

We note that, by comparison, the protests of thousands of people were overwhelmingly peaceful, the recent police actions were overwhelmingly violent.

MARUAH makes three main points here, basing much of what we say here on the plentiful supply of reliable videos, news broadcasts and print stories, from the global force of recognised and well-accepted mainstream media.

Firstly, the protesters’ level of organisation and care for the protesters, the people in Hong Kong, the property, is a focus that is well-placed. Their intentions were clear – no destruction, no harm to people, just withdraw the Extradition Bill. They also came prepared for their own protection – face masks, goggles, helmets, umbrellas – from the police force.

We state that, it would be a better approach for the government of Hong Kong, as a democratically-functioning system, to appreciate the steadfast passion, maturity and sophistication of thousands of people that has been taking place over many days. It is an exception as compared to other protest forms in other countries in various situations. To label the protest as being a “riot” is to focus on some deal-breakers in the protest and to also ignore, any aggravating circumstances, perhaps, even caused by police officers or unseen forces, that triggered a response from some of the protesters. .

Secondly, the police force acted violently against the protesters, using rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper sprays and swinging their batons randomly whilst also pushing back, severely, on the protesters.

We state, that, as the stand-off between the protesters – the people who oppose the Extradition Bill – and the police force would continue, it is important to ensure the security of the protesters and the officers and to keep aggravation of each other to a minimum, a commitment from both sides to ensure that the protests continue to be peaceful.

Thirdly, by the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1997, the way of life in Hong Kong would change from the current “one country, two systems” principle, in 50 years’ time, in 2047. This is a quarter of a century away. Therefore, it is disconcerting to get an Extradition Bill through, at this present moment.

We urge that the Office of the Chief Executive uses the time period over the next decades to put in place more constructive communications and legal frameworks, in an evolutionary pathway towards the watershed year of 2047, and to work with the people of Hong Kong on preserving its democracy, culture and identity, to its best; as China is changing dramatically as its economy rises.

We hope the Chief Executive, Ms Carrie Lam, would consider taking on an adequate and favorable response on the Extradition Bill, respecting the wishes of the people, to avert any hurt, harm and damage on the streets. 

-End-

Note: 
— This statement is issued by MARUAH Secretariat. For further comment, please contact the Secretariat at maruahsg@gmail.com
— Any and all quotes taken from this statement to be ascribed to Spokesperson MARUAH Singapore.   

About MARUAH Singapore

MARUAH is a human-rights NGO based in Singapore.

“Maruah” means “dignity” in Malay, Singapore’s national language. Human rights is fundamentally about maintaining, restoring and reclaiming one’s dignity, and MARUAH strives to achieve this by working on national and regional human rights issues.

MARUAH is also the Singapore focal point of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, which is officially recognised in the ASEAN Charter as an entity associated with ASEAN.

More information on MARUAH at www.maruah.org