BY GURDIAL SINGH NIJAR
(Deputy President, HAKAM)
LAST week a clutch of opposition politicians was denied entry into an East Malaysian state. One of them was allowed in but then evicted. The iconic Nurul Izzah of PKR chose to cancel her flight to avoid a similar fate, no doubt. Yet others notably Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad were assured they would be allowed in. All politicians. All going for the same political function.
On what basis is all this being done? And is it right?
Although the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to move freely throughout Malaysia, it allows for restrictions for entry into Sabah and Sarawak. Hence pursuant to the Immigration Act, these states require West Malaysian citizens to produce their identity card or passport to enter their states. Which they do not have to do to enter any other state, of course.
However, the Act says clearly that entry cannot be denied if it is for “legitimate political activity”. This means that the guaranteed constitutional right of entry cannot be denied if this is indeed the purpose.
The then deputy prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussain, assured Parliament in 1963 that this was indeed the position. This is what he said:
“Jadi dalam fasal 7 itu (‘sole purpose of engaging in legitimate political activity’) kalau sa-saorang hendak pergi ka-Sabah dan Sarawak kerana hendak menjalankan pekerjaan politik dia ada hak atau entitle to go, tetapi kalau tujuan yang lain terpaksalah dia mendapat kebenaraan menurut fasal dalam Rang Undang-Undang ini …”
Worse, no reasons are given for the decision to deny entry. As was the case when lawyer Ambiga Sreenevasan applied some years ago to enter Sabah for an ostensibly political forum alongside a leading state opposition figure and others. Just a bald bold statement by the authorities denying entry.
This is clearly unconstitutional. And for an additional reason too. The Federal Constitution guarantees the right to equality of treatment. Like cases must be treated in the same way. Else there is discrimination – which the Constitution forbids. Read more