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PETALING JAYA: Independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon who flew into Malaysia early this morning was denied entry and is being detained for “security reasons”.
He arrived at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal at Sepang at 6.40am and was stopped by immigration officials.
“He was denied entry on security grounds and will be deported to Australia,” said Ibrahim Yaacob, who is Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s chief of staff when contacted.
He added that the senator is expected to be deported at 10pm.
Ibrahim and Australian High Commissioner Miles Kupa have met Xenophon who is in a detention facility at the airport.
According to Ibrahim, Xenophon and three other Australian parliamentarians are scheduled to have a meeting with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz, the Election Commission (EC) and non-governmental organisations that would be observing the upcoming 13th general election on Tuesday.
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“He has an appointment with Nazri on Tuesday at 3pm. Since Xenophon has been denied entry, three other parliamentarians who were originally supposed to arrive here tomorrow have cancelled their trip,” he said.
But Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed Xenophon’s detention as a “non-issue”.
He reportedly said Xenophon’s lawmaker status does not make him immune to Malaysia’s immigration laws.
“Foreigners being denied entry to the country is a normal thing. It happens every day and everywhere like in Melbourne and Sydney. Every week we hear that Malaysians are not allowed to enter the country and were ordered to leave.
“Being a senator doesn’t make him (Xenophon) special.
“I as a minister, if not allowed to enter a country, must leave,” said Hishammuddin.
Meanwhile, Immigration Department director-general, Alias Ahmad, said Xenophon is prohibited from entering Malaysia because he had violated the Immigration Department’s regulations and the country’s laws during previous visits.
He said the action taken against Xenophon was in accordance with Section 8(3) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 for prohibited immigrant.
“Xenophon has entered Malaysia for a couple of times before and he had participated in illegal activities which violated Malaysian laws,” he said in a statement here today.
Alias explained that the senator was also found to have been making baseless allegations and spreading lies about Malaysia.
“The prohibition of entrance against Xenophon is the prerogative of the Malaysian government, in line with the country’s laws and constitution,” he said.
“I would like to stress that Xenophon was not detained or kept with other detainees at the Immigration Department’s detention room in the LCCT.
“In fact, he is now in the department’s waiting room at the LCCT, waiting to return to Melbourne in the next flight scheduled later tonight.”
Xenophon is no stranger to Malaysia. He previously led an international fact-finding mission to observe the Bersih 3.0 rally on April 28 last year.
The delegation found that the protest was peaceful until it was provoked by the police. The group also criticised the mainstream media for their biased reports.
Subsequently, Xenophon lodged police reports against three Umno-linked newspapers – New Straits Times (NST), Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian – that described him as anti-Islam based on a critical speech he made against Scientology in 2009.
Utusan Malaysia had replaced the word “Scientology” with Islam when reporting on the matter. Utusan’s report was also reported in NST and Berita Harian.
‘Gross abuse of power’
Meanwhile, Anwar condemned Xenophon’s detention, saying it is a violation of international protocol and an abuse of power.
“This act of detention and deportation for partisan political reasons is a gross abuse of power. It is also clearly a violation of international protocol in the treatment of visiting law-makers from abroad, particularly from member countries of the Commonwealth,” he said in a statement.
He also took Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to task for the detention.
“I would like to remind Najib that he has no right to treat visitors as enemies of the state merely because they are critical of his Umno-led administration.
“Malaysia does not belong to Umno. It belongs to all Malaysians regardless of political affiliation,” he said.
Anwar added that Xenophon cannot be detained since his actions are not threatening the nation’s security.
“While it is true that Xenophon has raised concerns about the probity of our coming general elections, he has neither violated any written law nor conducted himself in a manner which may be constituted as a threat to our security.
“Furthermore, he is here to be joined later by other Australian lawmakers for talks with us as well as EC officials. These reasons cannot be grounds to blacklist him,” he said.
‘Why so scared?
Bersih co-chairman S Ambiga questioned the government’s action in denying Xenophon access to Malaysia.
“It appears that Xenophon’s detention is made under the Security Offences [Special Measures] Act. It underscores the paranoia of the authorities about our elections. Why so scared?
“Deporting Xenophon who supports free and fair elections speaks volumes of the state of our elections,” said Ambiga on microblogging site, Twitter.
The Malaysian Bar also expressed its shock over Xenophon’s detention which it described as absurd.
“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,” Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee said in a press statement.
He also claimed that Xenophon was detained under Section 8(3) of the Immigration Act.
“The authorities are apparently relying on Section 8(3) of the Immigration Act, which stipulates the classes of prohibited immigrants, as the legal basis for detention.
“However, in the public mind the most natural inference is that the 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,” said Lim.
Human rights NGO, Suaram, also condemned the detention of Xenophon, saying it was politically motivated.
“Calling him an ‘enemy of the state’ is anti-thetical to the principle of natural justice.
“It appears that freedom of expression and movement is not accorded to individuals who are vocal and critical of human rights,” said Suaram executive director, E Nalini.