The much-awaited decision by Malaysia and Indonesia to offer temporary shelter to some 7,000 Rohinya and Bangladeshi boat people stranded in the open sea is most laudable.
Granted that these boat people are not our problem but certainly on sheer compassionate and humanitarian grounds we cannot allow them to die of starvation and sickness.
And certainly what we must never do is to push them back to sea and not allow them to land and seek shelter.
As for Malaysia it is certainly a calling for us to be compassionate and humanitarian even if we know we are not in any way responsible for this humanitarian crisis and catastrophe.
Foreign Minister is absolutely right when he said that “we are willing to take them onto our shores because the conditions they are in are totally unacceptable”.
The fact that our government is prepared, under very trying circumstances to deliver humanitarian assistance to the affected boat people in the brink of a human disaster make me proud as a Malaysian and I am sure many other Malaysians will feel likewise.
As Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib has appropriately pointed out “it is a basic human compassion that we ensure the hungry will be given food and water while the sick will be attended to with medical treatment and supplies”.
The task of ensuring that food and medical assistance will be given to them at temporary shelters is both challenging and immense.
As such the international community, particularly those countries that speak so much about human rights, must come forward to assist and share the burden of taking care of these boat people.
The reality is that the issue of Rohinyas leaving Myanmar is not only an Asean problem but one that needs to be handled with the full co-operation of the international community which needs to uphold its responsibility and share the burden of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand in addressing the problem.
In this connection the United Nations Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR) must assume a greater responsibility and find a permanent solution to the boat people and help in their resettlement or repatriation.
The eventual solution is to really deal with the Rohinya problem at source and this means that Myanmar itself has to find a solution, one way or another, in order to prevent more boat people from ending up perilously in rickety boats in the high seas.
In the meanwhile, continuous efforts must be made to address the problem of human trafficking which is inhuman and totally unacceptable.
Many more issues can be brought up and many comments can be made about the humanitarian crisis unfolding before us.
But for the time being let me say that Malaysia has taken the right step and has shown that we are a country with a heart.