Ideal mediator for the Rohingya crisis | Daily News

Ideal mediator for the Rohingya crisis

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa with Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa with Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina

For decades, Myanmar has gone through extreme cruelty to the Rohingya. The Rohingya problem is not new to Bangladesh. This problem, which started in 1978, became apparent in August 2017. More than one million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to save their lives when Myanmar launched a brutal operation against the Rohingya ethnic group. Bangladesh is seeking the intervention of the United States, the European Union and the United Nations as well as the regional alliance ASEAN for a lasting and acceptable solution to the Rohingya problem.

Now Bangladesh is facing serious problems because of this artificial crisis committed by Myanmar. Some socio-economic threats are rising in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has given shelter to Rohingyas for humanitarian reasons. But because of this, the country is now at risk. As a result, there is a danger of Rohingyas spreading all over the country, and there are also many challenges.

The forest is being uprooted, they are cutting down the mountains and destroying them. There are also long-term economic risks, socio-economic and political problems may also be evident, and security risks may increase. The narcotics trade, human trafficking, prostitution and terrorism in Rohingya camps are among the issues. 

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate the Rohingyas to Myanmar within two years in 2017 and 2019 respectively. The Myanmar authorities did not take back the Rohingyas according to the agreement. It is true that they don’t want to repatriate Rohingyas in Myanmar. Bangladesh has raised the issue at every international forum. Many countries have supported Bangladesh. But Myanmar has no respect for international laws and norms. Some mighty powers may have been behind the scene. 

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the issue at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on September 25, 2021, to draw attention to solving the Rohingya crisis. She has focused especially on the engagement of ASEAN leaders.

As a South Asian country and a well trusted friend of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka can easily solve it. Sri Lanka can be a mediator in this regard. Sri Lanka has warm relations with both Myanmar and Bangladesh. 

Various countries and international organizations have taken various measures to solve the Rohingya problem. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has criticized Myanmar authorities for being lax in repatriating displaced Rohingya. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern over the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Yang Lee, the UN special envoy for human rights in Myanmar, said all major countries in the world had a responsibility to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

In this regard, Sri Lanka can and should play a very significant role to solve the crisis in several ways: Sri Lanka can support Bangladesh at every international forum such as at the UNGA. They can vote in favour of Bangladesh. They can raise the issue at regional conferences like BIMSTEC and SAARC.

Sri Lanka can negotiate with Myanmar diplomatically and bilaterally. It has good bilateral relations with Myanmar. Sri Lanka can engage with other regional states to solve the crisis. Sri Lanka’s Buddhist society can play an effective role in this regard. The relations of Theravada Buddhists between Myanmar and Sri Lanka are well established. They can show the path shown by the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha. Buddhists will be recognized as the face of human rights if the Buddhist community plays a role in solving the Rohingya crisis. It will ensure regional peace to some extent and ensure communal harmony. Sri Lanka’s businessmen can engage to some extent because stability in the region is needed for investment.

Why should Sri Lanka mediate?

This issue is a humanitarian issue. Rohingyas are the sons of the Land in Rakhine in Myanmar. They have birth rights to reside in Myanmar. It is an issue of justice. According to Martin Luther King Junior, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is an issue of the Asian region. The whole of South Asia and South East Asia may become volatile through this issue. As a South Asian state, Sri Lanka has some responsibilities. 

Sri Lanka has very good relations with both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Enhancing bilateral relations could contribute to the growth of trade and investment relations with ASEAN and SAARC countries. This will create an opportunity to serve the greater regional interest.

Re-establishing the Himalayan–South Asian connectivity can occur if political and diplomatic solutions to strained ties between Bangladesh and Myanmar can be found.

Bangladesh has been supporting Sri Lanka at every international forum. For example, in a vote on March 23, 2021, the UN Human Rights Council has been given a mandate to collect and preserve information and evidence of crimes related to Sri Lanka’s civil war. In the resolution brought by Britain on behalf of a group of countries, 22 countries voted in favor of the resolution, 11 opposed and 14 abstained, including Sri Lanka’s neighbours, India and Nepal, and most Muslim majority countries. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uzbekistan voted against the motion. Now it is the duty for Sri Lanka to stand in favour of Bangladesh in her crisis moment.

Bangladesh has agreed with Sri Lanka to promote bilateral trade and work together in maritime security. Bangladesh–Myanmar–Sri Lanka can work together in maritime trilateral trade, counter terrorism approaches and tourism if the problem between Bangladesh and Myanmar is solved. Bangladesh is also providing US$ 250 million loan assistance to Sri Lanka through a currency swap. Sri Lanka sought this loan assistance from Bangladesh. This (assistance) proves that Bangladesh is always sincere in regional cooperation. Bangladesh will lend US$ 250 million to Sri Lanka as part of Bangladesh’s efforts to support the island nation suffering from a foreign exchange crisis. Sri Lanka should consider this. Sri Lanka should take concrete steps in favour of Bangladesh regarding the Rohingya refugees’ repatriation to Myanmar. Sri Lanka can make Myanmar understand and agree in this regard.

Sri Lanka can mediate to bolster the strained relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Sri Lanka can easily solve the problem because it has very good relations with Myanmar.

As a well-wisher, friend and partner in the development process and trade, Bangladesh can expect cooperation and support of Sri Lanka regarding the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Bangladesh deserves it. So, Sri Lanka should help and support Bangladesh and mediate in solving the crisis as soon as possible.

(Eurasia Review)

(Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka based researcher and journalist.)

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