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From: Harn Yawnghwe
Subject: Rohingya Unity and Consultation
To: "Harn Yawnghwe"
Cc: "Jack Sterken" , "Sarah Collen" , "Mael Raynaud"
Date: Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 4:45 PM
Dear Rohingya brothers, friends and colleagues,
Assalamu Alaikum. Mangla ba.
Many of you have written to me regarding the proposed Rohingya consultation in Saudi Arabia to be held by the Euro-Burma Office and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). My apologies for not responding sooner.
Part of the delay is due to circumstances - the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and other developments in Burma. The main reason for the delay is Rohingya disunity.
The first part shows that time is not on our side. The willingness of the OIC to host the consultation could disappear anytime. The world has already forgotten the Rohingya issue after the big news about the refugees at the beginning of this year. The 2010 elections will be the next big issue that the world will pay attention to. No one will care about the Rohingyas then. We do not have the time to be fighting each other for the leadership of various organizations. We need to settle personal differences in order to concentrate on the bigger issue - the future of the Rohingya people.
The disunity of the Rohingya people is a very serious matter. The EBO has been working with the Rohingya people since 2000. Instead of uniting, people seem intent on splitting into smaller and smaller groups. There is no need to talk about the ARNO and RSO split. Everyone knows about it. Right after the Rohingya National Forum was formed in 2006, the NDPHR split into two.
Another attempt was made in 2008 to unite the Rohingya after consultation with the OIC. The idea was for the political groups to form one organization, and after that to form an Arakan Rohingya Council to bring the political and civil society (community and activists) groups together. But at the meeting in Chittgong, the ARNO, RSO and Dr Yunus could not agree and the political group was not formed. The other groups proceeded to form the ARC but without political leadership, ARC did not move forward.
Then in 2009, as EBO was consulting OIC to revive ARC, the RSO split into two. I am not blaming anyone. I know that there are serious reasons for these splits but this disunity is not helping the Rohingya people. It is very disheartening and demoralizing for me and for the Rohingya people in general. Can we not work together for a common cause? Can we put personal ambitions aside? If we cannot work together, the Rohingya issue will be forgotten and it will not mean much in the future to be head of a splinter Rohingya organization. No one will know what a Rohingya is.
I do not want to convene a Rohingya Consultation with OIC if we cannot guarantee unity. If we split again after the consultation, it will be a major embarassment and the OIC will never again host a Rohingya convention or work actively with the Rohingya people.
The question now is, are we serious about Rohingya unity? Are we ready? If not, there will be no consultation.
If we are ready, I would like to propose the following. Please give me your input. You have been copied because I believe you to be responsible political and community leaders who want to build a strong voice for the Rohingya people.
1. First, we need to see different roles for political groups like ARNO, RSO, and community groups like BRAJ and BROUK. Both are necessary but they perform different functions.
2. The political groups need to work together if not unite into one group. The ideal is to have one political group as was planned for the meeting in Chittagong in May 2008.
3. The united political group should then give political leadership for all the Rohingya community groups world wide. This does not mean that the political group will control all the community groups.
Each community group will remain independent and represent the Rohingya community in their local areas. The political group will define what is politically important and lobby for it supported by the community groups. For example - the rights of Rohingyas in Burma, citizenship, right to travel etc, will be the key issues for the political groups who will lobby the OIC and other countries, as well as to be represented in ENC, NCUB, etc. The community groups will support the political objectives and lobby for better conditions for refugees and Rohingya communities in Bangladesh, Malaysia, etc.
To do the above, I propose -
A. Convening a small meeting of political leaders in Saudi Arabia - ARNO, RSO and NDPHR Paris plus possibly other respected leaders - to agree to form one political organization. To do this we need:
i) RSO to unite the two current factions, or for both factions to join the new political organization and agree not to split further,
ii) ARNO as the leading political organization to draft a statement of what the new united organization stands for - its objectives, and how it will include different political groups. How the executive will be elected and what their functions will be. How it will raise funds. What it will do for the Rohingya people. We need to be practical. It is useless to form an organization, have Presidents and Vice-Presidents, and nobody does any work.
If we can agree on i) and ii), a meeting will be convened. If there is no agreement beforehand, we will not have a meeting.
B. If we have agreement to form a united political body, and have a draft agreement, the meeting will be convened for 1 day in Jeddah. Once the political body is formed, we will follow up with an international Rohingya consultation in Jeddah for 1-2 days.
Rohingya community organizations that really represent their community and are active will be invited together with the new politcal group to revive the ARC. To do this, we need to review the ARC constitution and procedures.
Unless we can agree beforehand what the ARC should look like and what it will do, we will not have a consultation.
So, brothers, please give me your input. Let me know if you agree or disagree. Make suggestion. Please make sure you reply to Jack Sterken, the EBO Operations Director, because I will be leaving on a trip and may not have access to email.
If we can do all the above, I am hoping OIC will agree to a meeting in late August or early September.