Malaysia may bar travel for critics

Malaysia may bar travel for critics

'Red Shirt' demonstrators gather for a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest held over two days last month that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal, in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 16, 2015. (Reuters file photo)
'Red Shirt' demonstrators gather for a rally to celebrate Malaysia Day and to counter a massive protest held over two days last month that called for Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation over a graft scandal, in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 16, 2015. (Reuters file photo)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia has begun enforcing a law that allows authorities to bar citizens who insult the government from travelling overseas, the <i>Star</i> newspaper reported.

Under the law, Malaysians may be banned from going abroad for three years for discrediting or ridiculing the government, and immigration officials started applying the rule several months ago, the paper said, citing a person it didn't identify. Sakib Kusmi, director general for the immigration department, confirmed the legal provisions to the paper. A spokesman for the authority didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has fired detractors including his deputy prime minister, and curbed dissent to maintain his grip on power as funding scandals led to the worst political crisis since he became premier seven years ago.

Opposition politicians and Najib's leading critics are on a public campaign aimed at ousting him, as questions linger over $681 million that appeared in his personal bank accounts before the last election in 2013.

The attorney-general ruled the funds were a donation from the Saudi royal family and Najib has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups have condemned a decision to prevent an activist from going abroad this month.

Maria Chin Abdullah, chairwoman of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or Bersih, wasn't allowed to travel to South Korea on Sunday to receive an award, the group said on May 15.

Bersih organised a major street demonstration against Najib last year that drew an estimated 250,000 people as protesters demanded Najib's resignation.

More recently, she was part of a "Save Malaysia" effort aimed at collecting signatures from ordinary voters in cities across Malaysia calling for the premier to step down.

Najib has already made greater of another anti-dissent measure, the country's Sedition Act, to detain media executives and political opponents.

Under Malaysia's laws, the government doesn't have to explain why anyone is barred from leaving the country, the official news agency Bernama reported on Monday, citing Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed.

Chin Abdullah can consult the immigration authority to find out the reason behind the ban, he was quoted as saying.

"The lack of such transparency and accountability only points to a government which is intent on abusing its powers to repress its critics and dissidents," Tony Pua, an opposition lawmaker with the Democratic Action Party, said in a statement. "The government's crude attempts to restrict our travel rights are outrageous abuse of power, which only serves to prove the critics allegations of Malaysia transforming itself to be police state."

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (1)

Runway repair at Phuket airport delayed 16 flights

PHUKET: Phuket international airport was closed twice on Sunday for repairs to a damaged runway, delaying the landing and taking off of 16 flights, provincial governor Narong Woonciew said.

10:23

Advanced Info Service to buy Triple T Broadband, fund for B32.4bn

Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS), Thailand’s biggest mobile phone operator, plans to expand its network by acquiring Triple T Broadband Plc and an infrastructure fund for a total of 32.4 billion baht.

10:18

OIC 'pleased' to see boost in life quality

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) pledged to play a role in rebuilding peace in the deep South and improving the quality of life for residents of the restive region during a visit last week.

10:03