Malaysia

Bar Council: Government absurd, insecure for holding Aussie senator

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee chided Putrajaya for barring today Australian senator Nick Xenophon’s entry into the country, calling the move absurd and shameful.

“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.

“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,” Lim (picture) said in a statement.

The lawyer also said that while immigration officials have the right to decide whom to allow into the country, the public view is that the authorities had displayed their insecurity in response to dissent and demonstrated their disrespect for the rule of law.

“[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,” he said.

Lim reminded Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak 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,” he said.

The PM, who took over office after Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi resigned a year after Election 2008, had promised to dismantle archaic laws that had been criticised as tools for suppressing dissent and institute government and legal reforms to bring the country up to speed with its aim to join the ranks of fully developed nations.

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. — Lim Chee Wee

Lim also urged the government to release Xenophon from immigration’s custody and assure the other Australian lawmakers, who were due to arrive here tomorrow for talks with various groups, including the Election Commission, they could do so. 

The Malaysian Insider had earlier reported that Xenophon’s colleagues had cancelled their trip.

Xenophon first entered the public eye here last April following uproar over his observation of the Bersih 3.0 rally where he noted that the police had fired tear gas and chemical-laced water in what had been a largely peaceful protest.

His comments were also laid down in the final report of a fact-finding mission on elections in Malaysia as part of an international polls observer group that included six others, including representatives from neighbouring Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Germany.

The Australian lawmaker was detained by immigration officials upon arrival this morning at the budget airline terminal in Sepang and will be shipped home on the next flight out at about 10pm tonight.

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