KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network) - Politicians and activists who are "vocal" should check their travel status with the Immigration Department before they make any trips, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamad said on Wednesday (May 18).
His comments came days after Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of Malaysia's leading political pressure group Bersih 2.0, was stopped on Sunday night from travelling to South Korea to accept the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights on behalf of her group.
"With regards to Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin, she should have checked with Immigration if she still was barred from leaving the country or not. Don't just wait, check with Immigration," Nur Jazlan said at the Parliament lobby Wednesday.
The Star reported on Wednesday that Malaysians who discredit or ridicule the government in any way can be barred from travelling overseas for three years, under a restriction introduced several months ago by the Immigration Department.
Those who disparage the government while abroad will also be barred from travelling abroad again for three years upon their return, a source said.
Nur Jazlan said not many Malaysians have been barred from leaving the country for insulting or defaming the country.
Asked how the Government decided if a statement was defamatory to the country, Nur Jazlan said it was based on the discretion of the Immigration Department Director-General (D-G).
"If you think the statements of an individual, like Alvin Tan on his Facebook postings and insults on religion and such, if we feel that is considered as insulting the country, then we can take action," he said. Tan is a blogger who has been charged for posting pornographic and seditious images on his blog. He has jumped bail and is now in the United States.
Nur Jazlan said the yardstick for the decision depended on the reaction from the general public.
"It is about what is being said about some people. So we get reactions from the public," he said.
"All I am saying is, the power to go in and out of the country is at the discretion (of D-G) and he also issues the passport - which is actually a privilege, not a right.
"So they carry out their duties with the interest of Malaysia in mind," he said, adding that authorities looked out for those who deliberately insult the country.
He said the cases often differ and hence why the discretion lay with the D-G.
"Some people do things in their individual capacity. It doesn't affect people directly but it may have affected the country's image.
"Some people do things with the deliberate intention to bring down the country's image and reputation.
"So we look at those people who collectively do harmful things to the country and take action," he said.