by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 28th April 1990:
DAP offers help in international campaign to assist Malaysian Government to rebut international allegations that Malaysia has pushed Vietnamese boat people back to the sea in violation of international agreements
Deputy Prime Minister, Ghafar Baba, in Malacca on Thursday, (April 26) again denied international allegations that Malaysia is pushing Vietnamese boat people back to the sea in violation of international refugee agreements.
According to a local press report, the deputy Prime Minister was asked about the threat by Refugees International to launch an international campaign to boycott the 1990 Visit Malaysia Year unless Malaysia ends its push-back policy of the Vietnamese boat-people, and Ghafar said:
“This charge is untrue. Malaysia had never pushed them (Vietnamese refugees) back to sea. This is the first time I have heard this allegation. If they want to launch boycott action, it’s up to them.”
This is the second time that Ghafar had denied such international allegations about Malaysia violating her international commitment by pushing Vietnamese boat people back to the sea.
The international commitment that Malaysia is accused of violating is the Seven-Point Integrated Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) where Malaysia and other South East Asian countries pledged to offer first asylum to the Vietnamese boat people. The CPA was concluded at the Geneva Conference on Indochinese refugees last June. Malaysia was the Chairman of the Geneva Conference which worked out the CPA.
The Deputy Foreign Minister, Abdulah Fadzil Che Wan, had specifically declared that Malaysia abided by the U.N. Declaration on the Refugees as Malaysia is a signatory to the CPA.
If this is the case, I cannot understand the passive and negative response of the Deputy Prime Minister to the threat of a world-wide campaign to boycott Visit Malaysia Year 1990, which will nullify all the efforts the Government is making to turn tourism into a major income earner in Malaysia.
To protect the Malaysian timber export markets, the Malaysian Government embarked on a counter-offensive against international allegations that Malaysia was destroying the tropical rainforests.
In this case, if there is absolutely no basis about international allegation that Malaysia had since last May, pushed back to the sea over 5,000 Vietnamese boat people, it should be very much easier for the Malaysian Government to launch a counter-offensive to rebut such charges.
Given all the facts, the DAP is prepared to assist the Malaysian Government in an international campaign to prove that Malaysia had never adopted a ‘push-back’ policy, and had never violated the CPA.
Up to now, these international allegations have been made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United States Administration, and two refugee organisations, Refugees International and the United States Committee for Refugees.
Their allegations have been disturbingly specific.
For instance, the spokesman for Refugee International, Lionel Rosenblatt, had said: “We can prove four refugees died of dehydration after being towed away from Malaysia with no fresh water.”
Last month, when testifying before the Sub-Committee on Foreign Operations of the United State Senate Appropriations Committee, the Policy Analyst for the U.S. Committee for Refugees, Court Robinson, made the very serious allegation that in June last year, Malaysian coastal patrols were pushing back Vietnamese boat people back to the sea at the same time as the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Datuk Abu Hassan Omar, was chairing the CPA meeting at the Geneva Conference on Indo-Chinese Refugees and pledging temporary first asylum for refugees.
If Malaysia had not adopted a ‘push-back’ policy on the Vietnamese boat-people, and violated the CPA, DAP offers to help the Government in an international campaign to explain the true facts to the international community, which will also obviate any retaliatory attempts in the United States and European countries for anti-trade and anti-tourism moves against Malaysia.