At a glance, that may have seemed like a good move by the Sarawak state gomen. Blocking a person from coming in so that he doesn’t sow the seeds of hatred into the community, what’s not to like about that?
But what if if we told you that some people actually disagreed? And these some people mayyy not be anyone you’d expect…
“When you ban people from speaking, you insult the intelligence of your own people.” – Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, as quoted by The Rakyat Post
Because ever since Ridhuan Tee was banned from Sarawak, many people have been banned from Sarawak. People that aren’t usually said in the same breath as Ridhuan Tee.
So guess who was banned from entering Sarawak after that?
Yeap, many other people have actually been barred entry into Sarawak. Aside from the people you see above (minus LGE), other notable names include Tony Pua, Nurul Izzah, and people who aren’t exactly politicians like Jamal Yunos, and Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan. But these are only to name a few.
And Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, has said that the gomen won’t hesitate to ban more. Here are some of the other people that have been banned from entering into Sarawak.
- Tony Pua
- Nurul Izzah
- Teresa Kok
- Tian Chua (Who for some reason, was among the first to get banned from Sarawak AND Sabah, even before Ridhuan Tee. The ban on him was recently lifted to allow him to attend a funeral.)
Which leads to the obvious question of….
Why are so many people getting banned from Sarawak???
Well, according to Adenan Satem, Sarawak is the most harmonious and peaceful state in Malaysia, and thus…
“I do not want this (the harmony) to be disturbed. That is why the state does not ban politicians alone but also religious bigots and racial extremists.” – Tan Sri Adenan Satem, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today
BUT here’s something else he said.
“You know that there will be no lifting, but they (opposition party leaders) have the liberty to come to Sarawak anytime – after the elections.” – Tan Sri Adenan Satem, as quoted by The Star
So some of you may not have heard that Sarawak will be having their State Elections soon. We’ve talked about why it’s held at a different time from the General Elections before, but basically this upcoming election for Sarawak is to determine who rules the state.
Atm Sarawak is ruled by Barisan National BUT its biggest party over there isn’t UMNO but Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB). And no prizes for guessing that the President of PBB is Tan Sri Adenan Satem himself.
We don’t have to state the obvious la that this sounds pretty unfair for the opposition. But the thing is, he may actually be allowed to do so!
The Sarawak (and Sabah) gomen has all the right to ban people from entering the state!
If you’ve been to Sarawak before, you would know that when you wanna enter Sarawak, you need to present your IC then they’ll give you a piece of paper known as a permit/pass.
And it does seem a bit odd that even though Sarawak is part of Malaysia, people from Semenanjung can’t enter Sarawak as freely as they would enter another state like Melaka or Perak. But the thing is, the Immigration Act 1959/1963 actually states that people coming from Semenanjung Malaysia are not allowed to enter Sarawak OR Sabah WITHOUT some sort of permit unless:
- They are originally from East Malaysia
- They are member of the Federal Gomen or Sarawak/Sabah gomen
- They are a federal judge, Sarawak/Sabah judge, or just someone appointed by the Federal Gomen to perform a specific task in East Malaysia
And even after you got permit, you can only stay there for 90 days (a lawyer friend tells us that if you wanna stay there LONGER, you need a work permit or student permit).
Most of this comes under something called Section 66 of the Immigration Act, which basically says that East Malaysia has its own laws when it comes to immigration (amongst other things).
And while the Immigration Act doesn’t actually specify how a person can get banned from entering East Malaysia but this article mentions that they have the right to ensure the people that come in are not a threat, and are able to contribute to the growth of their respective states.
So aside from gomen officials and East Malaysians themselves, just about anyone else can be banned from Sarawak without reason??? Maybe not….
Actually Adenan Satem may not be allowed to ban politicians at all
You can imagine the noise the opposition made as more and more of them got banned. But one article from DAP assemblyperson, Chong Chien Jen actually brought up that the Immigration Act may not allow Adenan Satem to ban politicians from Sarawak after all.
“Subsection 66(1) (the section on who can or cannot enter Sarawak) shall not have effect in relation to a citizen entering the East Malaysian State for the sole purpose of engaging in legitimate political activity; but the burden of proof that a person is entitled to enter the East Malaysian State under this section shall lie on him.” – Section 67 of the Immigration Act, as stated on the Attorney-General’s website
This was also echoed by Lim Kit Siang a few days later who said that there was no political activity more legitimate than the Sarawak State Elections. Adenan Satem’s response to this however, was to say that he had not only banned opposition politicians, but people like Jamal Yunos (the red shirt rally guy) and Dato’ Ibrahim Ali (Perkasa guy).
But if it really is illegal for Adenan Satem to ban these opposition leaders, then might as well just challenge in court right? Why doesn’t the opposition just do that? Well they tried, but they decided it’s not worth doing.
“We have studied precedents or past cases of similar nature, and there is not much of a chance to succeed so we decided not to proceed with the case.” – Sarawak DAP chairman, Chong Chieng Jen, as quoted by The Malay Mail Online
So should Sarawak continue to have the power to stop people from entering?
When Sarawak and Sabah first agreed with Malaya to form Malaysia, it was decided that they would have some special interests in order to protect their states. It was agreed that these special interests would remain as long as the people of East Malaysia felt it was necessary, and one of these special interests was immigration.
By law, Sarawak does has the right to stop people from entering, but the problem here is that these recent bans may be political in nature. When Ridhuan Tee was first banned from Sarawak, many people actually rejoiced.
But when Ridhuan Tee found out he had been banned, he actually questioned why he was banned then, when he was allowed in before.
“I am myself from then till now. May I ask Sarawakians following my talks all these (sic) while, did I plant politics of hate among races, extremism and any other negative connotation? What’s certain is that most are satisfied with my talks.” – Ridhuan Tee, in his column for Sinar Harian, as quoted by The Malay Mail Online
And this, coupled with the fact that Adenan Satem has said over and over that the ban on these people will be lifted after the elections, show that maybe it’s really not about Sarawak’s power to stop people from entering. Maybe the question is whether or not these bans are really meant to protect Sarawak, or to serve the interests of a particular group of people.
And if the latter is true, we may need to rethink how we see all the bans, even the bans that we may personally agree with.
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