Sri Lanka trip a test case on human rights for PM, MIC leaders

Even if PM Najib Razak does not address the human rights violations against Tamils during the Sri Lankan civil war, MIC president Subramaniam or former MIC president Samy Vellu should.

By P Ramasamy

Prime Minister Najib Razak is on a three-day official visit to Sri Lanka with some of his ministers, including Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said and Malaysia’s special envoy to South Asia S Samy Vellu.

The trip to Sri Lanka might be important from a diplomatic point of view. However, some sections of Malaysian society expect human rights issues to be raised with Sri Lankan leaders.

During his short stay, Najib is expected to meet Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other leading officials.

Najib’s visit to Sri Lanka will mark 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He will also witness the signing of several memoranda between the countries on matters such as diplomatic training and science and technology studies.

Although this diplomatic trip leading to the signing of several agreements might be important, there are other matters that might be considered equally important for Malaysians in general.

Since Samy Vellu and MIC president Subramaniam are on the trip, it is expected that they might advise Najib to raise the matters of the gross human rights violations against Tamils during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

I am sure Malaysians in general and Indians in particular would expect our leaders to raise such matters given the global concern about violations of Tamil rights over the decades.

Hundreds and thousands of innocent Tamils were killed during the height of the civil war. Furthermore, thousands disappeared during the civil war and their whereabouts are not known to this day.

Even if Najib spends the bulk of his time discussing matters of mutual interests, surely he cannot dismiss the human rights issues that are dear to some sections of Malaysian society.

Surely Subramaniam, being the leader of MIC, cannot remain silent over what happened to Tamils in Sri Lanka. At least he could advise Najib to raise the matter so that the Sri Lankan authorities can allow for an international investigation into the war crimes.

Former MIC president Samy Vellu is also on the trip. He has been holding the ministerial status post of a special envoy for a number of years.

I am not sure what he has contributed so far in developing relations between Malaysia and South Asian countries.

I seriously doubt he has raised human rights issues in countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India or Pakistan. He was given this post just to ensure that he would not create problems for MIC or the Indian community.

The Sri Lankan trip is test case for these leaders.

While Najib has been seriously courting the Indian community in view of the coming general election, it is not certain whether he will ask the Sri Lankan leaders to take responsibility for the human rights violations.

Even if Najib does not raise human rights issues, there is nothing stopping Subramaniam or Samy Vellu from raising the matter with the Sri Lankan leaders.

However, I have serious doubts that either of them will have the guts to raise such matters. They are so far removed from the concerns of Malaysian Indians that they owe their present positions to the lifeline thrown by Umno.

P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.