The private broadcaster Raajje TV has raised more than MVR4 million (US$260,000) to help Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing violence in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
“We initially targeted for MVR1 million during a 24-hour telethon. Later we decided to extend it for another five hours due to demand from the public,” Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, the station’s chief operating officer, told the Maldives Independent after the 30-hour telethon ended Monday night.
“Reaching MVR4 million means that this is the most successful telethon conducted by a private TV station.”
The telethon featured special reports on the plight of the Rohingya and songs dedicated to the cause as well as appearances by local musicians and film stars.
Hundreds of people made small donations with many bringing their children to drop cash into a fund box set up outside the Raajje TV studios in Malé.
Several companies, cafés, restaurants, civil society groups, councils, and sports clubs donated to the fund whilst 19 island councils participated in the initiative with fundraising drives across the country.
The Maldives has been gripped in the past week by media reports about the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority, prompting several groups to organise fundraising activities amidst an outpouring of sympathy for the fellow Sunni Muslims.
Marches in solidarity with the Rohingya have taken place on several islands, including Maarandhoo in Haa Alif atoll, Kamadhoo in Baa atoll, and Gahdhoo and Villigili in Gaaf Dhaal atoll.
Earlier this month, the Maldives severed trade relations with Myanmar until its government “takes measures to prevent the atrocities being committed against Rohingya Muslims.”
On Sunday, the Maldivian government also announced plans to hold a telethon from September 21 to 23 in collaboration with private media and civil society groups.
Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad Bagir, a member of a high-level committee set up to coordinate the fundraising efforts, urged interested parties to call the newly set up hotline 1440 for information.
Defense Minister Adam Shareef told the press that the committee will oversee efforts and provide administrative support in lieu of direct involvement in fundraising.
The committee will set up accounts in the Bank of Maldives and Maldives Islamic Bank for donations, he added.
On Monday, the UN human rights chief meanwhile urged Myanmar to end its “brutal security operation” after more than 270,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh amid reports of extrajudicial killings and villages set on fire.
“The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said.
Speaking to Raajje TV last night, Professor Yanghee Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, thanked Maldivians for supporting the Rohingya.
“I am so glad that Maldives is doing this telethon which shows solidarity for human kind and the fundamental rights and dignity of every human being,” she said.
Lee stressed the importance of international aid to help Bangladesh cope with the thousands of refugees.
“For Bangladesh to really handle this influx and mostly people from Rakhine, the Rohingyas, who are in dire need of food assistance, medical assistance and I am afraid they are going to need a long term psycho-social interventions; for the children who witnessed deaths and even for the adults who endured such a hard journey to Bangladesh where they will need long term care,” she said.
According to Raajje TV, the proceeds from its telethon will be donated to the Maldivian Red Crescent, the Maldivian branch of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, which has appealed for support to its Bangladeshi branch focusing on health, water, sanitation and hygiene, food security, nutrition, livelihoods, shelter and restoring family links.
The Maldives Red Crescent will accept donations until September 20.