Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sabah and Sarawak's right to say 'Sorry, no entry'

QUICK TAKE: The power to say, “Sorry, no entry” to anyone, including Malaysian citizens, into Sabah or Sarawak rests entirely in the hands of the director of immigration of these Borneo states who is to comply with the direction of the “State authority” which in effect means the chief minister.

The latest victim of this special immigration power, granted to the two states since the formation of Malaysia in September 1963, happens to be Seputeh Member of Parliament Teresa Kok who was denied entry when she landed at the Sandakan airport after a flight from Kuala Lumpur on Feb 4.

As usual and expected, there are protests over the incident but to no avail, because the state concerned does not even have to give a reason or explain such an action.

For, under Section 65(1)(a) of the Immigration Act 1959/63, the state authority in Sabah or Sarawak has the right to restrict or cancel a permit, pass or certificate of anyone wishing to gain enter into that state.

This is a law applicable only to the East Malaysian states in recognition of the fact that immigration control was one of the top safeguards requested by Sabah and Sarawak leaders and this point was duly incorporated into the Immigration Act 1959 that was accordingly amended by Parliament in 1963.

In the months prior to the formation of Malaysia, there were genuine fears of people in Sarawak and Sabah that Malayans who were more advanced in education, commerce and industry, would flock into their states in large numbers and take away employment and other opportunities from the locals, considered as unfair competition then.

Over half a century down the line, this law is still firmly in place and from time to time the chief minister concerned would use it to bar the entry of individuals considered by him to be undesirable to the state, including leaders of opposition parties, like Teresa Kok.

And no one could do anything about it, not even the prime minister.

Last November when Negara-Ku Patron Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan was denied entry into Sabah she described the ban as ridiculous saying, “I don't know what they are paranoid about in this day and age. These types of restrictions are meaningless, when there are other ways to go about it.”

She had suffered a similar restriction in April 2011 when disallowed to enter Kuching and put on the next flight back to Kuala Lumpur, her port of origin. She took the matter to the High Court in the nation's capital and was told by the court there that it had no jurisdiction to hear a Borneo case and dismissed her application.

Another who had a similar experience was PKR vice-president Tian Chua, who was denied entry into Sabah by the immigration authority in April 2013 and forced to take the next flight back to Kuala Lumpur the same day.

The display of this special power by the state authority of these two states is not confined only to social activists and opposition personalities, but to academicians as well. In late December last year, controversial academician Ridhuan Tee Abdullah was barred from entering Sarawak upon arrival at the Kuching International Airport.

Sarawak Immigration Department deputy director Hamfatullah Syawal Hamdan confirmed to Bernama in a report that his department had received instructions from the Chief Minister’s Office to stop Mohd Ridhuan from entering the state.

Mohd Ridhuan was scheduled to deliver a religious talk at the Lundu District Mosque. A source told Bernama that Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem was not in favour of Ridhuan's presence in Lundu and had instructed that the event be cancelled.

Two years ago, PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar was denied entry into Sabah because she was heading for an event in conjunction with the state level Kaamatan (harvest) festival in Penampang, near the state capital.

State Secretary Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman explained in early June 2013 that the ban on Nurul Izzah was only for a single occasion, which was on the eve of the closing ceremony of the state level Kaamatan celebrations on May 30. He said the decision to bar her entry was done for security reason.

“There is no permanent ban on her or any other opposition leader coming into Sabah as long as they do not pose a security threat,” he was reported to have said then.

According to Sandakan Member of Parliament Stephen Wong, who was at the airport to receive Teresa Kok on Wednesday, the latter was scheduled to attend and witness the installation of DAP Sandakan Wanita wing that night.

In what way could the Seputeh MP be a security threat then?

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