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The 'Malaysia solution': has its time now come?

By Clive Kessler - posted Wednesday, 27 June 2012

And now another hundred souls lost. Another hundred souls on all our consciences.

Responsibility for this latest terrible loss is widely shared.

By refugees themselves who risked this recourse, and by the people smugglers.


By the Indonesian government. A government that prefers to see overloaded, unseaworthy boats head south and reach, as soon as possible, some place on the open seas where they will effectively become Australia’s responsibility, not their own.

Here the commercial interest of the smugglers — who want to show that they have a “product” that they can sell, a service that they can deliver — is reinforced by the Indonesian preference to see the “refugee burden” passed on to Australia.

For all their talk about “Islamic solidarity”, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments prefer to see themselves, and to serve, as transit points, not destinations, for Muslim refugees from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

And then, also on the responsibility list, comes Australia.

Perhaps all, or most, or many of us. Those to whom our populist politicians defer, whom they wish to placate.

But especially upon those politicians, of whatever stripe, who seek to mobilise fear and resentment, and to ride to power by inflaming them further.


At the head of the list come those who have obstructed all progress towards implementation of the “Malaysia solution”.

That means especially Tony Abbott and his shadow immigration minister, the “hard man” in this awful passion play, and also the holier-than-thou Greens.

Wrapping themselves in the mantle of high virtue, the Greens have opposed the Malaysia solution on the grounds that Malaysia is not a paragon of human right practice. That it fails to measure up to ideal standards. Standards by which even Australia itself must be deemed a failure.

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This was first published in The Malaysian Insider and a shorter version appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 June 2012.

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About the Author

Clive Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at The University of New South Wales, Sydney.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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