EXCLUSIVE: St Hugh’s JCR takes stand against Suu Kyi

JCR passes motion to rename college JCR and petition the principal to write a letter of condemnation to Myanmar leader
Motion comes after Suu Kyi’s college portrait was removed and replaced in September by St Hugh’s
115 vote in favour of motion, while 45 students are against
A fall from grace: Aung San Suu Kyi. Source: Commons Wikimedia

St Hugh’s JCR have passed an historic motion to unname the Aung San Suu Kyi Junior Common Room with immediate effect.

Following widespread criticism of how the Myanmar State Counsellor and former St Hugh’s student has responded to the Rohingya crisis, second-year Engineering student Affnafee Rahman proposed the motion that resolved “that the Junior Common Room (the room itself), which is currently named after Aung San Suu Kyi, be unnamed to immediate effect. This is to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and oppressed minority of Myanmar and to make a statement that we condemn crimes against humanity and Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on this issue.”

However, the second resolution also mandated the JCR committee to petition the principal of college, Dame Elish Angiolini, and/or the relevant authorities within college to “write an open letter of condemnation to Aung San Suu Kyi on behalf of the college which she once belonged to”.

The Swan can reveal that 115 voted for the motion, while 45 voted against. 11 students abstained on the vote.

The Swan has learned that since the JCR debated the motion on Sunday evening — when the decision was made to move the vote to an online ballot — certain members of the JCR committee have also had a discussion with Dame Angiolini, who is currently in Hong Kong, about the issue.

On Tuesday evening, JCR Vice-President Edward Piggott emailed members of the student body stating that on the second resolution on petitioning the principal, “the JCR Committee will come back to the JCR to seek further arguments and evidence for both sides before petitioning the principal and/or other college officials. Both sides will need to be considered in order for us to make a watertight case that an open letter of condemnation from college should be written.”

The motion stated that JCR believed that the “violations of Human Rights anywhere in the world are unambiguously and unapologetically unacceptable and condemnable”, and that “Aung San Suu Kyi’s inability to condemn the mass murder, gang rape and severe human rights abuses in Rakhine is inexcusable and unacceptable”.

Affnafee Rahman, who proposed the motion. Source: Facebook

The motion added: “Aung San Suu Kyi’s reluctance to address such crimes is in direct contradiction to statements she made during her Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech…Some of Suu Kyi’s claims such as ‘We want to find out why this exodus is happening’ or ‘there have been no conflicts since September 5’ are shocking. Suu Kyi’s claim that her government ‘does not fear international scrutiny’ is contradictory to the fact that several UN investigations teams have been denied visas.”

Speaking to The Swan, Mr Rahman said that as a Bangladeshi student and a responsible member of college, he believed he “had to do the little I could to inform people what is going on” through proposing the motion.

He also voiced his concerns about the response of college to the St Hugh’s alumna’s reactions to the severe humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, saying that they had dealt with it in “a very vague, incoherent and poor manner”.

A college statement on the issue reads: “The College shares the grave international concern about the persistent ethnic violence towards, and treatment of, the Rohingya community. We earnestly hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will do everything within her power to stop the violence and address the underlying issues as a matter of urgency.”

The Swan exclusively revealed that Suu Kyi’s portrait was removed by college in September, while also reporting the news that the PPE graduate had been stripped of the Freedom of the city of Oxford last week.

When asked what he would personally say to Suu Kyi as a St Hugh’s student, Rahman said: “As a fellow Hughsie, I ask Aung San Suu Kyi to stand for the human rights you used to believe in; stand by the Rohingya; stand by more than a million human lives suffering outside of your country. Create a world where ‘every corner is a sanctuary’ to the sufferer and if you’re unable to do that, at least speak up for the innocent, the oppressed and the homeless.”

St Hugh’s College have been contacted for comment.