Malaysian opposition lawmakers, media group's boss claim placed on travel ban list

Opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmaker Tony Pua has been barred from leaving the country.
Opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmaker Tony Pua has been barred from leaving the country.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) lawmaker Tony Pua is considering filing a lawsuit against the Malaysian government after he was barred from leaving the country on Wednesday.

The DAP national publicity chief said he was not informed beforehand that he was on the no-fly list, nor had he been called in for questioning for any investigation.

He said there was no reason preventing him from leaving the country, and could only speculate that the ban was related to his criticism of debt-laden state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and allegations of a conspiracy by the opposition to topple Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

"The Immigration officers said they had no clue why I was barred, except that it was instructions from 'higher up'," Pua told reporters at the DAP headquarters on Wednesday.

"As far as I am concerned, I have committed no crimes and taken part in no illegal activities in any issue relating to 1MDB. I will be consulting my lawyers to discuss filing a suit against the Government for preventing me from leaving the country without due process."

Pua had been scheduled to board a 3.15pm flight to Yogyakarta, Indonesia from the low-cost carrier terminal KLIA2 when he was flagged by immigration officers.

He said the trip was part of his work on the Penang arts district project. He was scheduled to leave Yogyakarta on Saturday and fly to Singapore for a reunion dinner before flying back to Malaysia on Sunday.

"I was planning to come back, not run away," Pua said in jest, adding that he was told to file an appeal with the securities division of the Home Ministry if he wished to leave the country.

Pua reiterated that he had never met Lester Melanyi, the man who has accused him of conspiring with several others to tamper with documents on 1MDB.

He also denied ever meeting former PetroSaudi executive Xavier Justo, but admitted to meeting with Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown on several occasions in Singapore, London and Malaysia.

"Whatever (documents) I got was whatever Clare put up on Sarawak Report. It is what everyone else has," Pua said, denying that he had seen or received any documents from Justo.

Meanwhile, the DAP's Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming, who was also present at the press conference, said checks on the Immigration Department website showed that the individuals embroiled in the 1MDB scandal such as former CEO Datuk Shahrol Helmi and current CEO Arulkanda Kandasamy were not on the no-fly list.

"I found that their ICs are not among those barred from leaving the country. If people like Tony Pua can be barred because of the ongoing 1MDB investigations, how come key figures who have not answered questions at the Public Accounts Committee hearing not been barred?" he said. 

"If the authorities are to be consistent, those directly implicated in the 1MDB scandal should be barred, and not MPs who are playing a check-and-balance role," added Ong.

Meanwhile, the DAP's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) ally in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition on Wednesday also claimed one of its leaders had also been barred from leaving the country. 

In a Facebook post, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli put up a screen shot of his barred status allegedly taken from the Immigration Department’s website, The Star reported. 

"Based on the developments in recent weeks, I suspect that Tony Pua and I will be called up by the police soon and possibly will be arrested based on the allegations spread through a video by someone named Lester Melanyi," he said in the post.

Rafizi, together with Pua, were among the opposition politicians accused by Lester, a former Sarawak Tribune editor, in an apparent video expose of being involved in the plot to discredit Najib. 

Also barred from leaving the country was The Edge Media Group owner Datuk Tong Kooi Ong, The Star reported. 

Sources at The Edge said that Tong had been barred from leaving but could not confirm the reasons for the travel ban. 

Immigration Director-General Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim could not be reached for comment.