There is a big buzz at the moment about the rights of a Malaysian to travel overseas with a Malaysian Passport. With our Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed recently said that the issuance of a passport was privilege and not a right. He went on to say that the Immigration Department has the power to bar a citizen from leaving the country if the said person “discredits or ridicules the Government”.
All these came about when Maria Chin Abdullah, who heads the Coalition for Clean and Fair
Elections (BERSIH 2.0), Malaysia's leading political pressure group, said she was
stopped Sunday night from travelling to South Korea to accept the
Gwangju Prize for Human Rights on behalf of her group. She, along with several notable opposition leaders and critics of the government has recently been banned from traveling out of the Peninsular and is creating a huge buzz among the community.
Thanks to the social media, news got out pretty fast and everyone jumps in with their 2 cents worth of Malaysian travel laws to comment about the ban. This got me curious of course so I went and did a bit of digging to see if I can find any other news/examples about the whole Passport problem.
Even the Immigration Department director-general Datuk
Sakib Kusmi has stepped in and said that there is a new ruling to stop Malaysians who ridicule the government
from travelling overseas. Sakib did not provide statistics on the number of Malaysians barred so
far from travelling abroad for discrediting the government, but noted
that it is a privilege to be able to have a Malaysian passport rather
than a right. I also can't find the new ruling anywhere with google so anyone can help point me to the right article or link?
"The Malaysian international passport is a travel document issued by
the Government under the aegis of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. So, the government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke
the travel document," he was quoted saying in an email to local daily The Star.
But then, there's the Federal Court judgement in 2009 held that the right of Malaysian citizens
to travel abroad with a valid passport was not a mere privilege as is
widely believed. This judicial pronouncement was made by a three-man bench led by
chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum when
deliberating a criminal appeal, and now has bearing on the Immigration
Department’s move to revoke the passports of sex blogger Alvin Tan and
activist Ali Abd Jalil.
Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram, who delivered the ruling in the case of Lee
Kwan Woh v. Public Prosecutor, said the term “personal liberty” in
Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution included other rights such as
the right to travel abroad. The bench, which included Datuk Hashim Yusoff, said this when the court seized the opportunity to interpret Article 5(1). In interpreting Article 5(1), the court said the concepts of “life”
and “personal liberty” meant more than mere animal existence.
“Personal liberty includes other rights such as the right to travel abroad,” Sri Ram had said in the landmark ruling. Lee had been accused of trafficking ganja and the High Court had found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Lee had complained that his lawyer was not allowed to make
submissions at the close of the prosecution’s case because the trial
judge concluded there was sufficient evidence for Lee to answer the
His appeal to the apex court was on the basis that this action – the
failure to let his lawyer give submissions – had violated Article 5(1)
which states that no person shall be deprived of “life” or “personal
liberty” except in accordance with the law. The judgement which set Lee free also held that constitutional rights
must be read “prismatically” and generously, not literally, and cited
the right to travel abroad as an example of personal liberty.
The Federal Court’s ruling in Lee’s case was cited by lawyers who
said the Immigration Department was wrong in revoking the passports of
Tan and Ali, who are both seeking political asylum abroad. Immigration Department director-general Datuk Mustafa Ibrahim had
said that this was done because Tan and Ali’s actions could not be
“tolerated”, since they had “insulted” the judiciary and Malay rulers.
Several lawyers have told The Malaysian Insider that the department
should immediately cancel the order in deference to the apex court’s
ruling. “The department has transgressed an irrevocable right and acted contrary to natural justice,” lawyer R. Kengadharan said.
Lawyer S.N. Nair agreed that the director-general had exceeded his
authority, while Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said the department appeared
to have breached Article 9 of the constitution for banishing citizens
following the revocation of the travel document while they were abroad.
This section of the post is an old article from TMI so it's old news but managed to be retrieved from cache files.
Sakib Kusmi also confirmed that Malaysians have the right to go to court and challenge travel bans on them. So if you checked with at http://sspi2.imi.gov.my/ and finds that your name's banned from traveling overseas, you can go and petition for the ban to be lifted. I guess this only applies to those that has been very vocal about the government and is in the limelight a lot for it.
What about travel bans to the Borneo island? I tried some of the more well known recently banned travelers that went to Sarawak for the Sarawak election but their identification number did not raise any flag in the imi link. So if anyone reading this know where to check or a link to the page to check, do share by commenting below. It'll be nice to check since Sabah and Sarawak has autonomy over who they allow in from the Peninsular.
The government had first drawn up in 1995 a list of offenses (can't find it in the IMI website, will share the link once I managed to find the list) that would
result in a temporary overseas travel ban of between two to 10 years,
with such offences including those convicted of crimes locally or
abroad, deliberate damage of passports and making unapproved visits to
The Star quoted an unnamed source that said the new ruling to
bar those who run down the government from travelling abroad was
introduced a few months ago to protect Malaysia's image. The source also said the ruling kicks in upon request from enforcement agencies like the police.
"Anyone who runs down the Government or 'memburukkan kerajaan' in any
manner will be barred from going abroad," the source said, adding that
only the department's director-general can look into their appeals.
This is still quite a grey area when it comes to what can and cannot be done. How far is far before a Malaysian falls foul of breaking any laws that permit a him/her from traveling? I guess for you and me, it doesn't really matter yet but the fear is real among the people on the street. Is the big brother listening to every conversation that is on the street? Will a person get banned from travel just for uttering something that isn't pleasant about the government over a cup of coffee? Time will tell, for now. Check your status before making any plans, better be safe than sorry.