Monday, January 30, 2017

Assassination of U Ko Ni - message from Rohingya leaders

The murder of U Ko Ni, a longtime rights and democracy activist, respected constitutional lawyer, and legal advisor for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, is a grave loss for Burma and for all those who seek to promote tolerance and respect for human rights in the country. As one of the few remaining Muslims with the stature to influence the NLD’s policies, he was a voice of reason amid a rising tide of intolerance. 

On Sunday afternoon, U Ko Ni was shot dead outside Rangoon airport while holding his grandson in his arms. He had just returned from accompanying a government minister on an official trip to Indonesia to discuss ways to overcome inter-religious differences. The alleged gunman was arrested while attempting to flee the scene. 
I first met U Ko Ni in Rangoon last June, at a Human Rights Watch news conference for the launch of a report I wrote calling on the newly elected NLD government to amend or repeal laws criminalizing peaceful speech and assembly. While he supported our call to reform Burma’s outdated and repressive laws, he stressed that changing a system developed over the course of 50 years of military rule could not all happen at once.
After the news conference, we met in the hotel coffee shop. U Ko Ni, fasting for Ramadan, spoke quietly but intensely about the many ways in which Muslims are marginalized in Burma and his desire to make a difference. He raised concerns about the prevalence of anti-Muslim hate speech on social media and the need to find ways to counter it. He was thoughtful, creative, principled, and determined to fight for justice – all qualities that are much needed in Burma today.
While the motive for his murder is still unknown, what is clear is that the country has lost a strong voice for tolerance and inclusion at a time when it needs it most. The many people whose lives were touched by his activism, his legal work, and his principled compassion will mourn his tragic death. But the greatest challenge falls now to the NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who should honor his legacy by forcefully and consistently acting to protect the rights of the country’s increasingly persecuted Muslim population – whether ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine State or the minority communities in Burma’s urban areas.
Read the Joint Statement      below from Rohingya associations:
                                                                                 Date: 30th January 2017
Rohingya Condemn Assassination of U Ko Ni and Call for Urgent investigation
We, the undersigned Rohingya organisations worldwide strongly condemn the assassination of U Ko Ni, 65, a high profile Muslim leader and legal advisor of NLD on Sunday, January 29, 2017 upon arrival at Yangon international airport from his official tour to examine the Indonesian model of interfaith. 
U Ko Ni, a 1988 activist, was well known in Myanmar as a sincere, honorable, dedicated and patriotic man. He was the founder of Myanmar's Muslim lawyers Association and had contributed the nation with his expertise in law. He was a strong advocate for peace, interfaith dialogue and harmony in the country. It is an irreparable loss for the nation.
We express our deep condolences to the members of the bereaved families U Ko Ni and Ko Nay Win, the taxi driver who bravely chased the murderer.
The assassination of U Ko Ni, is a reflection of how intimidating the situation is for those who are working for peace and dialogue, especially when they are from minorities or non-Buddhist religious groups.
We call for an urgent independent investigation to identify the motives and people associated with this heinous murder.
We also call on Rohingya people and all Muslims of the country to pray for U Ko Ni.
U Ko Ni will be remembered all times for his heroic struggle for the rights of Muslim communities and other minorities in the country, and also for his relentless fight for constitutional changes for a truly democratic Myanmar.
     1.    Arakan Rohingya National Organisation
  1. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  2. British Rohingya Community in UK
  3. Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
  4. Burmese Rohingya Association Japan
  5. Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan
  6. Burmese Rohingya Community Australia
  7. Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
  8. Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
  9. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia (MERHROM)
  10. Rohingya American Society
  11. Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
  12. Rohingya Community in Germany
  13. Rohingya Community in Switzerland
  14. Rohingya Community in Finland
  15. Rohingya Community in Italy
  16. Rohingya Community in Sweden
  17. Rohingya Organisation Norway
  18. Rohingya Society Malaysia
  19. Rohingya Society Netherlands

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