LONDON – A pop star famous for being the lead singer of Irish group the Boomtown Rats and also a world-renowned humanitarian announced on Monday he was returning an award also given to the state councilor and foreign minister of Myanmar because of his profound unhappiness over the Rohingya Muslim crisis in that country.
Bob Geldof said he was handing back his 2005 Freedom of the City of Dublin award to avoid being identified with Aung San Suu Kyi who also received the same award.
The now legendary organizer of Band Aid which helped spur aid for Africa denounced the Burmese 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s role in the Rohingya debacle which the United Nation’s has described as a full-blown “ethnic cleansing.”
According to Geldof’s statement, “Her association with our city shames us all and we should have no part with it, even by default. We honored her, now she appalls and shames us.”
Geldof said that the moment Suu Kyi is stripped of her Dublin Freedom, the city’s Council could perhaps decide to restore his honor.
“If not, so be it,” he said. “Please accept this small gesture and the sadness that accompanies it.”
Dublin’s “Ardmhéara” (mayor) replied, just hours later, to Geldof’s decision to return his 2005 Irish capital freedom award.
Mícheál Mac Donncha, of the Sinn Féin Irish nationalist party, described Geldof’s announcement as “ironic” and reminded the Irish pop artist that he “proudly retains” his title of Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KCB).
According to Dublin’s mayor, Geldof “is entitled” to return his award but also reminded him that the honor bestowed on him by the British Crown, allowing the recipient to use the title of Sir was a reminder of “the shameful record of British imperialism across the globe.”
Regardless of the spat between Dublin’s mayor and the artist, there has been a growing chorus of international criticism regarding the latest South East Asian humanitarian disaster.
Apart from Geldof, another acclaimed Irishman, Bono, lead singer of the rock band U2, said on Saturday he disapproved of how Suu Kyi had managed the crisis.
According to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, over 1,000 Rohingyas have died in Myanmar’s Rakhine State since the crisis erupted.
Myanmar’s military junta does not recognize the Rohingya ethnicity, claiming they are Bengals.