|Press Release: |
|Saturday, 16 February 2013 02:28pm|
The Malaysian Bar is astounded at the absurdity of the Malaysian authorities in detaining Australian Senator Nick Xenophon upon his arrival on Malaysian soil this morning. He is currently in custody, having been reportedly refused entry into the country, and will be deported.
Such shameful action on the part of the authorities shows the sizeable gulf between the aspirational statements of the Prime Minister that Malaysia is a modern democracy, and the irrational actions of the people around him.
During the Senator’s visit to Malaysia, he was scheduled to meet representatives of the Government, the Opposition, civil society groups, as well as leaders of the Malaysian Bar.
The authorities are apparently relying on section 8(3) of the Immigration Act, which stipulates the classes of prohibited immigrants, as the legal basis for detention. However, in the public mind the most natural inference is that the Malaysian Government opposes, and is fearful of, the Senator's views and comments, as he has been outspoken and critical of the Government regarding issues of democracy and human rights.1
Criticism of policy and governance must be respected and received without reprisal, even if they contain inconvenient and uncomfortable truths. Any other reaction would be a sign of insecurity, and would disrespect the rule of law.
The Malaysian Bar reminds the Prime Minister that action must follow aspiration. In this instance, the authorities owe an unreserved apology to Senator Nick Xenophon and must promise such an incident will not happen again, to him or any other visitor, merely on the basis of their views.
The Malaysian Bar also calls on the Government to allow the Senator entry into the country, and to assure his colleagues that they will be permitted entry as well.
Lim Chee Wee
16 February 2013
1See “International Fact-Finding Mission on Elections in Malaysia, 25-29 April 2012: FINAL REPORT”, accessible here.