Friday, June 21, 2019

Zakir Naik - Refugee/Asylum Seeker? Extradicted? - World Refugee Day? Definite Law needed?

Zakir Naik - well, he is again in the media, with India allegedly wanting to extradite him from Malaysia to bring him back to India to face criminal charges in court. Is he an asylum seeker or refugee? Problem is that Malaysia has NO LAW on refugee and/or asylum seeker? So, even if he is a refugee/asylum seeker - it is merely a 'political' decision. Or was he just granted PR status simply?

Today(20/6/2019) is World Refugeee Day - and sadly in Malaysia, there is still no law that deals with REFUGEES and ASLYLUM SEEKERS  - and reasonably, it is time for Malaysia to have such a law. It will define who will be considered asylum seekers and/or refugees, and will also clearly state how applicants for asylum and/or refugee status will be dealt with in Malaysia, and also the rights and responsilities of such person when their application is being processed. 

Malaysia has not yet signed and/or ratified the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which really is not that a big deal, because even if signatories breach the Convention, all that the UN can do is express dissatisfaction and make recommendations to the signatory State - and, even if such States ignore these recommendations, there is little that the UN can do. Most UN Conventions require the enactment and/or amendment of local laws to be in compliance with such UN Conventions. Hence, even if Malaysia do not sign this Convention or related protocols, what is more important is that Malaysia should have its OWN MALAYSIAN law that deals with Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

Historically, many such alleged refugees and asylum seekers have fled to Malaysia seeking protection. We recall the Vietnamese Boat people, whereby Malaysia did not shun them but allowed(even helped) the UNHCR to house them whilst the UNHCR processed their application, and arranged resettlement to third countries. Sadly, many were not re-settled and the balance finally were shipped back to Vietnam.

Likewise, Malaysia also 'protected' those that fled the military junta in Burma, and is still doing so for many including the Rohingyas. Malaysia has also been the destination of people from Southern Thailand, Southern Philipines and even Aceh(many years ago). Of late we have also read about the Muslim Uighurs that fled China.

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia has released 11 ethnic Uighur Muslims after dropping charges against them for entering the country illegally and rejecting China's request that they be deported back to Beijing,.. - Asahi Shimbun, 12/10/2018

This fact makes it all the more important that Malaysia enacts a law that deals with these alleged asylum seekers and/or refugees. 

What happens now to asylum seekers and refugees is uncertain. 

There is a UNHCR office in Malaysia, and Malaysia seems to accord special treatment to asylum seekers and refugees that are being dealt with by UNHCR. Undocumented migrants with UNHCR papers may not end up being arrested or detained. Even if arrested and detained, they will be set free and not simply treated just like all other undocumented foreigners...It seems to a government policy - but policies can arbitrarily be changed.

The recent deportation of a UNHCR recognised asylum seeker from Thailand back to Thailand on that government's request is one such embarassing moment for Malaysia

Praphan Pipithnamporn was an asylum-seeker registered with the UNHCR but was arrested by the police in April on Thailand’s request. ..“If there is a request, then we will send back. (We are a) good neighbour,” Dr Mahathir said at a press conference on Tuesday (May 14).  ...-UNJUST when Malaysia arrests and send back to Thailand a UNHCR recognised asylum seeker?
The reason given that Malaysia will hand over asylum seekers and/or refugees to 'good neighbours' was shocking, and a violation of the principle of non-refoulement 
Non-refoulement (/rəˈfuːlmɒ̃/) is a fundamental principle of international law that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution based on "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion".
It becomes even more important that Malaysia has a Malaysian Law on Asylum Seekers and Refugees. The existence of such a law could even be used as a reason why Malaysia will not send back alleged asylum seekers/refugees. No extradition if it is contradictory to national law, even if the request comes from very powerful nations.

What becomes important in such laws is the clear definition of who is an asylum seeker or refugee. It should generally not cover people who are wanted back by their country that have broken some criminal law including corruption and money laundering, murder, rape, etc - unless there is reason to believe that those charges are baseless or false, or is being used wrongly. In this current 1MDB related cases, we want to get Jho Low back ...and it will not be right if he is protected by asylum/refugee laws in some third country, would it now? Criminals should generally not be able to escape justice by simply getting asylum/refugee status.

Who is the REFUGEE? That is something that we need to define - for it today also includes not just people fleeing political persecution but also Environmental conditions and also economic conditions like poverty.
The primary and universal definition of a refugee that applies to states is contained in Article 1(A)(2) of the 1951 Convention, as amended by its 1967 Protocol, defining a refugee as someone who:

"owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it...
Asylum means the granting by a State of protection on its territory to individuals fleeing another country owing to persecution, serious harm, armed conflict or other situations of violence.

Jesus and his family fled Israel to escape prosecution of Herod who was out killing babies hoping to eliminate baby Jesus.

The people of Israel due to continuous drought fled to Egypt, and Egypt welcomed them - and many years later they, who had become 'oppressed' people, had to escape under the leadership Moses(or Nabi Musa)..

The refugee and asylum seeker is not a new concept but something that have long existed for thousands of years.

Remember Anwar Ibrahim also sought temporary asylum in 2008 at the Turkish embassy...
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sought refuge at the Turkish Embassy at the invitation of its Ambassador to Malaysia Barlas Ozener.The PKR de factor leader wrote on his blog at that he had gone to the embassy because he feared for his personal safety. “I was transported to the embassy earlier this morning (Sunday). I thank all those who offered to assist me in this time of need and am grateful to the Turkish ambassador for extending an invitation to me to seek refuge within the embassy,” he said.“I would like to assure my family, friends and supporters in Malaysia that I am safe and remain committed as ever before in continuing the struggle for a free and just Malaysia.”  - Read more at
So, it really is time that Malaysia also has a clear law on Refugee and Asylum Seeker. 

Zakir Naik must have also been considered an asylum seeker, and the then Malaysian government allowed him to stay in Malaysia to 'protect' him - He was granted a Permanent Residency(PR) status in 2015...Did Malaysia consider him a refugee or asylum seeker - under what law? Where is the power for the government to do so? A Prime Minister and/or government cannot only do something if the law gives it, maybe it was because Najib wanted to give him a gift of a PR, and what exactly is the position of present government? 

Are we protecting him just because he is a Muslim? Not a good reason - or is it in Malaysia? There must really a justification. Most foreign spouses of Malaysians also do not have Permanent Residency status - only year to year spouse visa. No government should have the to do anything it pleases - it must be in accordance to some law or the Federal Constitution?

Now, there is a criminal case filed in India, and there is an extradition agreement between Malaysia and India...

Malaysia's recent arresting and returning to Thailand an UNHCR recognized asylum seeker was disturbing and unjust..whilst it refusal to return the Uighurs to China was applaudable..

Now, Malaysia may soon have to deal with India's request that Malaysia hand over Zakir Naik...what will Malaysia do?

Religion is not and should never be a consideration - the only question would be whether he/she is a asylum seeker or refugee, and whether Malaysia will fearlessly adhere to the principle of non-refoulement. 

Many Malaysians are not happy with what Zakir Naik has been saying ...but, if he has broken any Malaysian laws, then he should be arrested and charged for these actions in Malaysia...

Whether he, if he is a recognized asylum seeker or refugee in Malaysia, should be returned to India, the country that he is fleeing ...'...owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion...' is the question Malaysia will have to answer?

As mentioned earlier, Malaysia needs to be committed to the protection of asylum seekers and refugees - and Malaysia certainly needs a law on asylum seekers and refugees.

The UN and UNHCR previously provided for food and shelter of all asylum seekers/refugees but now does not resulting in these asylum seekers/refugees having to fend for themselves - including finding shelter, food and living expenses > this is a strain on countries temporarily allowing these persons to stay - the burden of room and board, and related expenses, should really be borne by the international community - not the country who allows asylum seekers/refugees temporary shelter pending relocation in third countries. This UN/UNHCR policy is most prejudicial especially to the poor asylum seeker/refugees - who may end up breaking national laws in terms of employment/business, etc.. this happens because UNHCR is no longer providing shelter, food, clothing,etc ... 

Time for the UN to reconsider this policy. UN should provide food, shelter, clothing to all asylum seekers and refugees...and not expect the country where they are to be burdened with this additional obligations - that is grossly unfair. The responsibility for asylum seekers and refugees must be borne by the international community..

Zakir Naik won't be deported as long as he doesn't create problems, says PM

PUTRAJAYA: Controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik will not be deported as he has been granted a permanent resident status here.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told a media conference today that Zakir shall remain in the country, for now.

Several groups previously urged the government to deport Zakir following his alleged tendecies to make racial and religiously insensitive statements.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told a media conference today that Zakir shall remain in the country, for now. (EPA-EFE/AHMAD YUSNI)
"As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him (and at the same time) because he has been given a permanent resident status," Dr Mahathir said.

On matters relating to Malaysia's policy on sheltering refugees, Dr Mahathir said the country would continue to play its humanitarian role.

Dr Mahathir said the same should be emulated by European countries.

"We have always been hospitable to refugees coming into our country despite the fact their numbers 
are very, very big. We have accepted them.

"For humanitarian reasons, we think that the European countries must exercise the belief that they have, that they must be sympathetic towards refugees and allow them to come in.

"I understand that some countries have too many, and they would like to share (the humanitarian responsibility) with other countries...that is something they should do.

"But I understand some countries are closing their borders completely to the refugees. That is not humane."

(File pic) Controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik will not be deported as he has been granted a permanent resident status here. (NSTP/KHAIRULL AZRY BIDIN) - New Straits Times, 6/7/2018

India court orders Zakir Naik’s attendance by July 31 or risk arrest warrant

A PAS member holds up a placard to show his support for Dr Zakir Naik during Muktamar 2019 in Gambang, Pahang June 19, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
A PAS member holds up a placard to show his support for Dr Zakir Naik during Muktamar 2019 in Gambang, Pahang June 19, 2019. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 — A court in India today ordered fugitive Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik to be physically present in court on July 31 or risk facing an arrest warrant, a report said.

According to India's major newspaper Times of India, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court has said it would issue a non-bailable warrant against Dr Zakir if he fails to show up in court then.

Today was the PMLA court's hearing of the Indian government's financial investigation agency Enforcement Directorate's (ED) application for a non-bailable warrant to be issued against Dr Zakir.
The ED previously charged Zakir with laundering INR193 crore (RM115 million) in illicit funds.

Dr Zakir is currently believed to be in Malaysia, where the previous government granted him permanent resident status in 2015.

Last week, The Hindu news site reported that the ED was seeking a non-bailable arrest warrant against Dr Zakir from a Mumbai court via a court hearing today.

The warrant would allow the Indian authority to petition Interpol for a Red Notice to member countries that include Malaysia, and to also ask Malaysian authorities to return the controversial Islamic preacher to India under the two countries’ extradition treaty.

On June 12, India's Ministry of External Affairs said the Indian government has made a formal request to Malaysia for Dr Zakir's extradition and would continue to pursue the matter with Malaysia, also saying that there has been multiple cases of successful extradition to India in the past and that the fairness of the Indian justice system has never been in question.

On June 16, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the Malaysian government has yet to receive any form of request from India for Dr Zakir to be extradited to India.

Following Dr Wan Azizah's reported comments, Malay Mail contacted India's Ministry of External Affairs for clarification, but has yet to receive a response.

Dr Zakir has been evading Indian authorities since 2016, when files were opened against him for allegedly making hate speeches and laundering money after five militants launched an attack at a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that ended with 29 dead.

One of the attackers was reported to have claimed that he had been inspired by the preacher’s speeches.

Locally, Dr Zakir has been accused of denigrating other faiths and being a threat to Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multicultural harmony. - Malay Mail, 19/6/2019


No comments: