KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 ― There is a new ruling to stop Malaysians who ridicule the government from travelling overseas, Immigration Department director-general Datuk Sakib Kusmi said.
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.
"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.
He also confirmed that Malaysians have the right to go to court and challenge travel bans on them.
The government had first drawn up in 1995 a list of offences 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 Israel.
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.
The overseas travel ban for a period of three years will also be slapped on those who discredit the government overseas when they return to Malaysia, the paper said.
The same source reportedly said the new ruling also imposes a two-year overseas travel ban and inclusion to a special blacklist for Malaysians found working overseas without a valid permit or deported for overstaying in another country, or who had committed a crime.
Malaysia has barred several politicians and activists from travelling abroad recently, with the latest being Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah who was stopped last Sunday from flying to South Korea to receive a human rights award for the electoral reform group.