Immigration privilege is designed to safeguard specific interests

By Awang Abdillah Nasar

As i had explained in my article ‘Taib has hijacked our democratic system’ posted in the MoCS website on 29 may 2011, that democracy is a political system whereby the ultimate political power of a country is vested in the people, not the elected government. The political power of the people is manifested through the exercise of the universal democratic rights over a wide range of matters that affect the lives and affairs of the people and nation, which also shape the kind of elected government to be formed. In a true democratic country the elected government being formed must conform to the standard norms of good governance whereby it executes its’ duties and responsibilites to the best of its’ ability for the people. Hence members of the cabinet, the parliament or the State Legislative body must work for and be answerable to the people.

Unfortunately for the people of Sarawak, Pehin Sri Taib schemed his own plan where personal agenda is foremost, whilst good governance comes second. To achieve such a plan he will misuse this entrusted power of his elected government by forgoing the true duties and responsibilities of the state government and instead uses the state resources to serve his personal interests, usurps the democratic rights of the Sarawak people especially during the elections, silences the voice of the opposition members in the Dewan and flouts the rule of law.

As we have witnessed in many countries, Malaysia and the State of Sarawak are no exceptions, that very often when an elected government starts to abuse the entrusted power, over the years most of the democratic rights of the people are eroded away. The last remaining rights are the personal rights of individuals which cannot be suppressed easily, especially when the numbers of individuals resisting an abusive elected government begin to swell. Individuals can be anywhere inside or outside the state or country. Hence a large force of defenders of democracy can help to bring down even a powerful regime or a dictator. Very often the individual and basic human rights of brave men and women is the last bastion of democracy when all other rights are usurped or hijacked by those who persist to hold to power till the end. Personal human rights refer to the personal freedom aspect of the citizens in our society – free to believe, speak, write, hear, know, communicate, defend, meet, travel etc.

In this article I would like to touch on the aspect of freedom of individuals to travel to any part within his/her country. Every citizen has the universal right to interact with one another that necessitates movement to any part of a country for the purpose of meeting, communicating, discussion etc regarding their common interests, official or private duties, business, political or party matters.

No government minister or official has any legal recourse to deny or withdraw such universal basic human right of an individual, unless he or she is an alien or proven to pose a threat to the law and order of a country .

Pehin Sri Taib all out to suppress the last remaining democratic rights
We have witnessed in the last 30 years how Pehin Seri Taib has forgone the duties and responsibilites of good governance, stole the democratic rights of the Sarawak people in every election, silenced the voice of democracy in the DUN by turning it into an authoritarian body, muzzled the local media through threats of boycott or shutdown, bought over many opposition politicians through cash and or business offers.

Recently he is faced with a new threat from the last line of defenders of democracy. Desperate to cling on to power out of fear of meeting the same fate as those of dictators around the world, he ordered his few remaining loyal henchmen including high ranking police officers to threaten to take away the last remaining personal rights of these activists for making calls for his resignation and planning to stage a peaceful demo.

Prominent Social Activist who are banned from Sarawak. Ambiga, Haris, Chin Huat, BK Ong, Steven Ng and YB Sivarasa.

Another concern of our dictator is the personal right of intellectuals, politicians and activists from West Malaysia who share the same political struggle as their counterparts in Sarawak. Whenever an election is around the corner, Pehin Sri will take away the basic human rights of fellow Malaysians from West Malaysia to enter the state. Any citizen from West Malaysia has the legal right to visit any part of Sarawak or Sabah and vice versa as long as he/she has the necessary legal entry documents . This is enshrined in article 9(2) of the Federal Constitution that gives the right to citizens to move and reside freely throughout Malaysia. Hence there is no legal justification for the state government of Sarawak to bar any non-Sarawakian Malaysian law-abiding citizen to enter or travel to the State . Even bankrupts and bad hats can travel within the country so long as they do not pose a serious security threat to the nation or commit any major crime. However the state government of Sarawak believes it has the legal right in the form of the immigration special privilege to stop any West Malaysian citizen from entering Sarawak even for the purpose of a social visit . Let us examine as to whether Pehin Sri Taib really possesses that special power to quash the right of West Malaysians to enter the State.

Right of a West Malaysian to enter Sarawak versus Taib’s special immigration privilege
There are two issues involved here – first those West Malaysians who enter Sarawak to work ,live or seek business opportunities , and secondly those who enter as visitors or tourists for a limited time period.The States of Sarawak and Sabah have been granted the special immigration power as stipulated in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement . This special privilege is not meant to bar or deport outright the entry of West Malaysians into the two states , but rather to regulate or control the entry of West Malaysians from seeking employment or grabbing economic opportunities from the local Sarawakians and Sabahans . Hence the restrictions can be exercised only to prevent West Malaysians from working and overstaying in the state, not their right to enter the State. This special immigration power cannot supersede Article 9 (2) of the Federal Constitution if the West Malaysians enter the State as visitors but can only bypass it if they enter the State and stay on to apply or seek employment and economic opportunities.

In other words the law of the country has to recognise the universal democratic personal right of all Malaysian citizens to travel as visitors on a social visit pass within any part of the country . Such personal right can only be withdrawn if it is abused to jeopardise the employment and economic opportunities of the people of the two states. However Pehin Sri Taib’s interpretation is that he has absolute power to bar any West Malaysian from entering the state of Sarawak even for the purpose of a social visit.

A social visit pass does not in any way jeopardises the local Sarawakians ‘ employment and economic opportunities. A social visit pass is meant for fellow Malaysians to see and know the state and its people which has no relationship with applying for jobs or to establish business dealings in the state.The special immigration privilege does not grant the Chief Minister of Sarawak the absolute power to extinguish the legal ,personal and constitutional right of any West Malaysian to physically enter the state for a social visit. It only empowers the state to control and regulate West Malaysians from working, overstaying, and the like after they have entered the state . The responsibility to bar or deport any visitor from entering Malaysia including that of entering the state of Sarawak is applicable to those foreigners or aliens who have no proper entry documents ; and that responsibility falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government through the immigration department which is under the federal ministry of home affairs and not the state government of Sarawak .There is no law that empowers any state in Malaysia to bar and deport fellow Malaysians from entering any state within the country.

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