Press Statement

Barring opposition leaders into Sarawak impedes democracy and free and fair elections

7 December 2015

Lawyers for Liberty is extremely concerned at the Federal and Sarawak governments’ decision yesterday to bar Member of Parliament Nurul Izzah from entering Sarawak in order to campaign for the upcoming Sarawak election.

This common practice of arbitrarily barring political opponents is clearly politically motivated, irrational and a blatant abuse of immigration powers and the 18-point agreement made between Sarawak and Malaya before the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

Such a policy directly contravenes the freedom of movement guaranteed in Article 9 of the Federal Constitution where every citizen of Malaysia has the right to move freely throughout the Federation.

Any limitation of entry into Sarawak should only be for the lawful and reasonable exercise of discretion for reasons of security, public order, public health and the punishment of offenders. Needless to say, these reasons are not applicable to Nurul Izzah and many other members of the opposition or civil society like Rafizi Ramli, Tian Chua, Ambiga Sreenevasan and Cynthia Gabriel who were previously barred from entering the state.

Further, section 67 of the Immigration Act 1959/63 makes clear that the state’s powers to restrict entry shall not have effect on a citizen who can show that the purpose of entry into the state is to engage in legitimate political activity.

We call upon the Federal and Sarawak governments to stop barring all opposition and civil society leaders from entering the state, as such powers to restrict must not be abused to impede the rights of all Malaysians to participate in the country’s democracy, free and fair elections and other public affairs.

Released by:

Eric Paulsen

Executive Director

Lawyers for Liberty

For further information:

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