KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Travel restrictions can be imposed on grounds of national security, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said today after the Malaysian Bar criticised arbitrary overseas travel bans.
Nur Jazlan also denied reports that the ban was aimed at government critics, claiming that it only affected Malaysians who violated the Federal Constitution.
“This policy has been implemented for a long time, not just recently. But the criteria will change from time to time.
“Not for people who criticise the government. Opposition said that. Only for people who commit offence (sic) against the Constitution, for example sedition, religion, race, and threat to national peace and harmony and national security,” he said in a statement.
Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru said yesterday the government’s claimed power to arbitrarily restrict the travels of any Malaysian is a “myth”, noting that travel bans can only be enforced in limited scenarios like bankruptcies and tax defaults.
The Star recently reported the Immigration Department as saying that it enforced a ruling a few months ago to bar those who insult the government from travelling abroad for three years.
Nur Jazlan said today that if Malaysians were no longer affected under the “criteria” for the overseas travel ban, then it would be lifted.
“If they want to challenge the ban, then they can bring their case to court to get their ban lifted.
“Because of the rise of terrorism and security threats that involve Malaysians leaving the country, for example to go to Syria, KDN cannot limit the criteria of people to be denied travel and it is always reviewed from time to time,” Nur Jazlan said, referring to the Home Ministry.
He accused the Malaysian Bar of behaving like “politicians” and making statements which did not merit any legal basis.
“Anyway those people who are affected by the travel ban can bring their case to the courts to seek redress. If there is no legal basis as the Bar Council says, then the courts will order the Immigration Department to lift the ban,” Nur Jazlan said.
He reiterated that the Immigration Act empowered the director-general of the Immigration Department to issue passports, as well as to withdraw and restrict overseas travel of any Malaysian upon request by relevant authorities like the police, the Inland Revenue Board, and the courts.
“The passport is a privilege given to citizens and can be taken back. This is different to identity cards where if anyone qualifies by certain criteria, then they can get citizenship and it cannot be revoked unless in very extreme circumstances,” the Umno lawmaker stressed.