KUCHING - Sarawak has allowed an opposition MP to enter its borders, a lone exception to the state's blacklist of political leaders from Peninsular Malaysia who are banned from visiting.
The national women's chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Zuraida Kamaruddin was allowed in when she arrived at Kuching airport on Saturday (Aug 5), reported the Malay Mail Online. On her previous visits in 2013, 2014 and 2016, she was turned back at immigration control and asked to leave the state.
Sarawak is one of Malaysia's 13 states, however it, and Sabah, the other state on Borneo island, retain autonomy over immigration. Malaysians from other states are required to have their identity cards or passports to enter Sabah and Sarawak, and need to obtain work permits in order to work there.
Ms Zuraida is just one of the many politicians and activists barred from entering Sarawak, a stronghold of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional.
Other PKR leaders who have been refused entry include lawmakers Nurul Izzah Anwar, Rafizi Ramli, Chua Tian Chang and R Sivarasa. Opposition MPs Tony Pua and Teresa Kok, both from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), are also barred.
The late former chief minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Adenan Satem had previously said the ban was to protect the interests of Sarawak from "unsavoury elements", and that the right of the state to ban visitors from entering should not be questioned. Meanwhile opposition leaders have said the ban was without legal basis.
According to the Malay Mail, Ms Zuraida on Sunday (Aug 6) urged the current Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg to lift the state ban against other federal opposition leaders.
"I hope the state government will be more democratic this time around and allow us from the opposition parties to have a free entry to Sarawak to undertake our legitimate political activities," she told reporters before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.
She said that PKR fully supports Sarawak's autonomy over immigration control, and its efforts to reclaim its state rights from Putrajaya, Malaysia's administrative capital.
In recent years there have been increasing calls from Sabah and Sarawak for more autonomy, and for the federal government to respect the Malaysia Agreement 1963, under which Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia along with Malaya and Singapore as equal partners.
"If PH opposition comes to power after the coming general elections, we will give back those rights which have been eroded to Sarawak," said Zuraida, referring to the Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition that comprises PKR, DAP, Parti Amanah Negara and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Malaysia's next general election must be held by August 2018.