(Kuching Airport, Friday): In his first comment on the three Malaysians arrested in Burma, Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi said yesterday that Malaysians who enter other countries and "consciously commit wrongdoings will not earn much sympathy".
He said: "I find it difficult to sympathise with Malaysians who go to other countries and consciously create trouble or breaking the laws there.
"This is especially so when they know that their actions would result in them facing problems."
He said that if their actions were found to be against the laws in Burma, there was nothing that could be done, adding: "It is not for us to interpret the laws in Myanmar".
I disagree with Abdullah Badawi that the Malaysian government should not sympathise or help the three Malaysians arrested in Burma for entering the country and breaking the Burmese laws.
The Malaysian Government cannot take too legalistic a position to the extent of disregarding the democratic spirit of the action by the three Malaysians, See Chee How, Chong Kok Wei and Ong Ju Lin or the Malaysian Government would be seen as completely unsympathetic to the aspirations of Malaysians as well as the peoples in ASEAN and the international community for democratisation and greater respect for human rights in Burma.
It would be most unfortunate if Badawi's statement is accepted as a signal by the Burmese military junta as a licence to impose whatever harsh laws and cruel punishments against the three Malaysians as well as the other 15 pro-democracy foreign activists so long as they complied with the legalistic position in Burma as having been properly promulgated by the military junta!
Such a stand would forfeit all the international goodwill, credit and moral standing which had been earned by Malaysia for taking a clear-cut stand for democracy and human rights in the international arena, for instance, in denouncing the apartheid laws during the white supremacist rule in South Africa, although these undemocratic and discriminatory laws were properly enacted by the lawfrul authority of the land at the time.
I would urge Abdullah Badawi to reconsider the government's position on the three Malaysians arrested in Burma to give them full sympathy and support fully consistent with the Malaysian government's international position in promoting democracy and human rights in countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina and on issues like the Palestinian struggle for democracy and human rights in the Holy Land.
Malaysia has lagged behind the Thai and the Filipino government in failing to strenuously intercede with the Burmese military junta for the immediate and unconditional release of their nationals and I would urge the Malaysian government to send clear messages to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) the seriousness and gravity of the Malaysian government in protecting the interests of the three Malaysians arrested in Burma.
Such a government position would also reflect the concerns of Malaysians on the plight of the three Malaysians, who should be praised for their courageous defence for democracy and human rights in Burma. The people of Miri last night, for instance, started a signature campaign for the release of See Chee How and the 17 others arrested in Burma.
I would also call on the Malaysian Government and ASEAN to convey their concerns that the Burmese military junta has not made any progress whatsoever in democratisation and national reconciliation since the admission of Burma into ASEAN over a year ago, and to demand that the SPDC should stop proscrastinating or defy international opinion that it should start a political dialogue with Burmese Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.