K K Shailaja, a senior member of the CPI(M) and former health minister of Kerala, declined to accept the Ramon Magsaysay Award because the late president of the Philippines was known to have been brutal to communists.
According to a report published by The New Indian Express on September 4, the CPI-M has scuttled the chance of KK Shailaja winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2022 and described it as second ‘historical blunder’ after turning down the Prime Ministership for veteran leader Jyoti Basu two decades ago.
“It has been learnt that the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation had zeroed in on Shailaja for the 64th Magsaysay award for her commitment and service towards ensuring an accessible public health system and effectively leading from the front to manage the Nipah and Covid-19 outbreaks in the state. Kerala had won global recognition for its effective handling of the Nipah outbreak and the Covid pandemic during her tenure,” says the report.
There have been controversies regarding the presentation of the award previously also. The award has been known as influenced by a particular system of nomination. The process of selection of the awardees is very secret and not very transparent which makes it all the more doubtful.
The organization themselves claims that Ramon Magsaysay Award is the ‘Nobel Prize of Asia’. While most people know about the background of the Nobel Prize, the background of the Ramon Magsaysay Award is not very well known. Let’s understand why the Ramon Magsaysay is so controversial and doesn’t deserve to be called the ‘Nobel Prize of Asia’.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is alleged to be a biased award as in the past there have been instances that the award has been presented to people with a certain ideology. When we go through the specifications of the award, many things are found to be suspicious. The award is aimed at honoring individuals and organizations that exemplify transformative leadership and greatness of spirit. However there have been several discrepancies which do not justify this fact.
Moreover, the award is known to be presented mostly to the people with a leftist ideology. Many believe the criteria for selection has been to heckle and promote communism by heckling the state. It means there has been an approach of partiality towards a certain ideology.
Moreover, any award which is widely recognized has a certain procedure of selection of awardees which is very transparent and the jury of the award is highly recognized but we do not find such attributes in the Ramon Magsaysay which makes it all the more suspicious.
It has been alleged that the award has been established by two American organisations with deep links with CIA, and it was established in the name of a former Philippines president who was actively supported by CIA in winning the election.
Since Manila has served as the CIA's regional headquarters for Southeast Asia, it has long had an impact on Philippine politics. A key base for the USA during the chilly year, the country is home to multiple US military installations.
The Hukbalahap was a communist guerrilla movement led by peasant farmers in the Philippines during the 1940s and 1950s that was fighting against wealthy landowners. The USA feared that if the movement succeeded in garnering popularity and the country fell into Communist hands, American operations there would have to be shut down. The movement was also suspected of having links to communists. Therefore, suppressing the movement of Huks was very important to maintain American presence and interest in the Philippines, and the CIA had used Magsaysay to achieve that.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award was created in President Magsaysay's honour after his death in a plane crash in 1957. It may be noted the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, based in New York, constituted the award. In 2000, Ramon Magsaysay Emergent Leadership Award was established by Ford Foundation, another American organisation. Both these organisations are known for working for American interests in foreign countries, and have a history of closely working with the CIA. Therefore this award is seen as politically motivated.
When we go through the particular website of Ramon Magsaysay, it claims that the award identifies ordinary men, women and organizations that do extraordinary works. However, when we take a look at the present and past awardees, we find that they have been highly influential people who are widely celebrated over the years. This just showcases that the information is untrue and mendacious.
Controversy regarding KK Shailja
While Ms. Shailaja told reporters in Kerala that she declined the award because she was not interested in accepting it in her personal capacity, Sitaram Yechury, the general secretary of the CPI(M), said that the award is in name of Ramon Magsaysay, who is known for alleged brutally oppressing Communists in the Philippines.
"This honour bears Ramon Magsaysay's name, a man with a record of ruthless oppression of communists in the Philippines. She graciously declined it because of all these considerations, adding that she would be the first politician to receive it "explained Yechury.
“It’s also learnt that the party decided against her receiving the award as it was in the name of Magsaysay who was known for putting down Communist guerillas. The CPM felt that accepting such an award would backfire in the long run,” says a report.