NGO claims Sarawak abusing its immigration powers

Stop. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

KUCHING, June 19: Sarawak has abused its immigration powers by arbitrarily and selectively barring opposition politicians from campaigning or visiting the state last year, claimed Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM).

In its ‘Malaysia Human Rights Report 2017: Civil and Political Rights’ report, SUARAM, in its special feature on Sarawak, highlighted freedom of movement as one of the state’s key infringements of human rights.

Condemning the growing ‘secretive blacklist list’, it argued that the entry ban violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental right to freedom of movement.

“The barring of opposition politicians likewise denies citizens of their legitimate right to freedom of information and to a fair and democratic choice of leadership,” says the report, which was launched today.

The non-governmental organisation (NGO) urged the Sarawak government to “be transparent and provide legally sound reasons for banning individuals to the state and to provide an avenue to obtain temporary pass into Sarawak while such a ban is being challenged, without being instantly deported.”

SUARAM also urged the state government to immediate drop all politically-motivated travel bans against individuals with alternative views, including opposition politicians and members of civil society.

Many politicians and members of civil society had been banned from entering Sarawak in 2017, with some of them deported immediately upon arriving at Kuching International Airport.

Among the barred politicians mentioned in the report was Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Women’s chief Zuraida Kamaruddin.

Zuraida, now Minister of Housing and Local Government, is scheduled to make her official visit to the state on Thursday. She will be the first federal minister to visit Sarawak since Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over Putrajaya in the May 9 polls (GE14).

The last time Zuraida was denied entry into Sarawak was when she landed in Miri on Sept 23 last year. She was first refused entry into the state in 2013, and again in 2014.

In 2016, she was again stopped from entering when she wanted to help Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidates in the Sarawak election.

However, following PH’s victory in GE14, the Sarawak government has lifted the entry ban on PH leaders who have been appointed cabinet ministers. The lifting of the ban was confirmed by Sarawak Immigration director Ken Leben on May 23.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu and Transport Minister Anthony Loke are among other PH leaders who are now able to enter Sarawak.

SUARAM also noted that many Sarawakians who remained stateless due to lack of documentation, particularly from the indigenous community, also faced violations to their freedom of movement and urged the government to resolve this. — DayakDaily