Refugee swap may increase BN votes

By K Pragalath, FMT

PETALING JAYA: The Australia-Malaysia refugee swap would benefit Barisan Nasional because the 800 refugees that Malaysia will receive are Muslims who are expected to be fast-tracked into becoming registered voters.

“In a country where the terms ‘indigenous’ and ‘Muslim’ are seen almost as interchangeable, some see the present amnesty on illegal immigrants as a way of fast-tracking more Muslims on to government benefits and the electoral rolls, with the asylum seekers from Australia expected to join that preferential queue.

“The 4,000 Burmese refugees who will be welcomed to Australia are Christians, or at least non-Muslims.

“So in the ethno-religious politics of Malaysia, this is seen as a swap of 4,000 non-Muslims for 800 Muslims; as squeamish as we may feel about describing the equation in those terms, it is clearly one way in which the deal supports the interests of the ruling Muslim majority,” writes Chris Kelly, in the Australian newspaper The Australian.

The refugee swap involving 4,000 refugees who would be sent to Australia and 800 to Malaysia was signed last month in Kuala Lumpur despite protest from Malaysian opposition and NGO circles.

Kelly also noted that the 800 would gain due to the similarities in faith – Islam.

Similarly, Kelly also wrote that opposition parties are worried about the extended amnesty programme to register illegal immigrants who are pre-dominantly from Indonesia.