Malaysians who insult their government will be barred from overseas travel for three years, which authorities say is aimed at “safeguarding the country’s image.”
Authorities have begun enforcing a law that allows them to bar citizens who discredit or ridicule the government from travelling abroad. Immigration Department Director General Sakib Kusmi, in an email to The Star newspaper, confirmed the existence of such a provision, and said the ownership of a Malaysian international passport was a privilege and not a right.
“So, the Government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke the travel document,” he said. Those who disparage the government while abroad will also be barred from travelling abroad again for three years upon their return.
The paper quoting an unnamed source reported that the Immigration Department had enforced this ruling several months ago “in a move to safeguard the country’s image.” “Anyone who runs down the government in any manner will be barred from going abroad. Only the Immigration Department director-general will be authorised to look into their appeals,” the source was quoted as saying.
He said under the latest ruling Malaysians who are caught and deported for overstaying, committing a crime or working without a valid permit abroad will also be barred from going overseas again for two years. Sakib could not provide statistics on the number of Malaysians who have been barred from leaving the country for discrediting or ridiculing the government.
The controversial move came as Prime Minister Najib Razak has fired detractors and curbed dissent to consolidate his grip on power as funding scandals triggered the worst political crisis since he became the premier seven years ago. Another anti-dissent measure – the country’s Sedition Act – has also been often used against media executives and political opponents by Najib.
Under Malaysian laws, the government doesn’t have to explain why anyone is barred from leaving the country, the
official news agency Bernama had reported on Monday, citing Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed. Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups have condemned a decision to prevent an activist from going abroad this month.