People holding placards showing Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (right), stating ‘Withdraw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize’, and Myanmar Buddhist monk Biksu Ashin Wirathu (centre) during a protest against the persecution of the Rohingya, in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday. (EPA PIC)

WHO would you vote for the Nobel Peace Prize this year? Here are some interesting facts.

According to nobelprize.org, 97 Nobel Peace prizes have been awarded from 1901 to last year; two were shared by three people; 16 women have been awarded the Peace Prize; 62 is the average age of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates the year they were awarded the prize; one Peace Prize laureate, Le Duc Tho, has declined the Nobel Peace Prize, and three Peace Prize Laureates have been under arrest at the time of the award: German pacifist and journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

Of course, whoever is the favourite for the prize and even the winner will be the subject of debate and scrutiny. We can only speculate as the list is confidential. The winner will be announced early next month. The Peace Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque worth 10 million Swedish kronor (RM5.2 million).

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was the winner last year for his efforts to bring peace to his country ravaged by a half century of conflict.

In March this year, a report said that a near-record of 318 people and organisations are in the running for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, of which 215 are individuals and 103 are institutions.

Among them are a volunteer organisation that provides emergency support in war-torn Syria, White Helmets; Pope Francis; jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi; Edward Snowden, who exposed the scope of the United States’ National Security Agency electronic surveillance programme; former French president Jacques Chirac; US President Donald Trump; and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Then there are those who support German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her stance involving refugees. The small matter of the German election on Sept 24 might, however, determine her chances in the race.

Apart from former US president, Barack Obama, who was awarded the prize so early in his presidency, another controversial decision was to award the prize to two Israeli leaders, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, together with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for their peacemaking efforts.

As the Nobel Committee said: “It is to honour a political act which called for great courage on both sides, and which has opened up opportunities for a new development towards fraternity in the Middle East.”

Sadly, with Arafat and Rabin gone, while Peres no longer a force in Israeli politics, the present Israeli leaders do not look like having the slightest desire to continue the peace process.

So, perish the thought of fraternity in the Middle East. It’s more like enmity and hostility between Israel as the occupier and the occupied Palestinians.

The Nobel peace award is under the microscope again this year after one of the previous recipients was pilloried for keeping quiet and acting contrary to the spirit of democracy and human rights of which she is renowned for. This is none other than Suu Kyi.

Past Peace Prize winners have urged Suu Kyi to speak out against the humanitarian tragedy befalling Rohingya Muslims after an estimated 270,000 of them fled Myanmar for neighbouring Bangladesh to evade attacks by government troops and Buddhist mobs.

A report, which seemed to explain her reluctance to defend the values she’s fighting for, also mentioned that it had to do with going against the military again.

The Canadian press learned that she rebuffed three Nobel laureates who tried, in a private meeting four years ago, to persuade her to speak up for the Rohingya.

The three laureates were American Jody Morris, Iran’s Shirin Ebadi and Liberia’s Ley-mah Gbowee.

They added their voices to the global condemnation of Suu Kyi. Recently, Pakistan’s Malala You-sufzai and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu have also urged Suu Kyi to criticise the violence against the Rohingya.

So, what should we make of the issue surrounding Suu Kyi and the Nobel Peace Prize?

Some have urged the Noble Committee to withdraw Suu Kyi’s award, but this has been rejected by the committee.

They say symbols play an important part when you want to portray and fight a certain issue. Surely, the Nobel Committee understands this?

Of course, it’s too late this year if we want to nominate the Rohingya as the recipient. Maybe, next year. Or, maybe, the Nobel committee can make an exception?

This is the only way to remind Suu Kyi and the Myanmar regime that the evidence is pointing squarely at them as the perpetrators and abettors of crimes against the most persecuted minority in the world.

The writer is Berita Harian Features/Op-Ed editor

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