Australian Senator Nick Xenophon was detained for 15 hours at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia before being deported after he was accused of being an ‘enemy of the state.’ Malaysian officials said Xenophon “could cause disorder and could be a danger to the community.”
Xenophon was scheduled to meet with Malaysia’s Opposition leaders and to prepare as election observer this year. He participated in the Bersih rally a few months ago, a massive street demonstration attended by Opposition personalities.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim condemned the decision to deport Xenophon:
I would like to remind Prime Minister Najib Razak that he has no right to treat visitors as enemies of the state merely because they are critical of his UMNO led administration. Malaysia does not belong to UMNO. It belongs to all Malaysians regardless of political affiliation.
While it is true that Senator Xenophon has raised concerns about the probity of our coming general elections, he has neither violated any written law nor conducted himself in a manner which may be constituted as a threat to our security.
Tholu asks how a democracy like Malaysia can’t even tolerate criticism:
If PM Najib Razak's regime can't even tolerate a comment made in disfavour of our government's running of the country by a national of a foreign country, how can we trust it to transform Malaysia into a modern, developed and truly democratic nation with their attendant attributes of free speech and expression and an impeccable human rights record?
Is the government hiding something, writes Tan Zhong Yan
Maybe Xenophon is right in saying that the Malaysian government is being authoritarian as this has again proves that the government is not able to accept criticism.
The deportation of Xenophon also casts doubt as to what the government is trying to hide as the government need not be afraid if everything is transparent.
Aliran echoes the view that the deportation is unjustified:
Was the deportation related to the senator’s honest criticism of the government’s unwarranted ‘authoritarian’ treatment of Bersih? If that is the case, it is indeed deplorable especially coming from the Najib administration, which once proudly claimed that Malaysia was the best democracy in the world. Surely, any criticism in a thriving democracy, as opposed to a dictatorship, doesn’t warrant the unjustified deportation of critics
But Xenophon was also criticized for interfering in the domestic affairs of Malaysia. Rocky's Bru publishes a piece written by RL who reminds Xenophon that he violated Malaysia’s domestic law when he participated in a rally a few months ago:
…if Xenophon sought to participate as an international observer in Malaysia’s elections, he should have not taken part in illegal street rallies in this country, and he should have adhered to the stipulations required within Malaysian law by applying to be a recognized observer.
Malaysians should also not forget the long reach of deportation power in Australian law, which routinely grants persona non grata status to non-Australians for minor offences. Xenophon’s deportation is an unfortunate incident, but foreigners are required to abide by Malaysian law if they wish to have some kind of presence observing elections or staying in the country, otherwise, it is perfectly acceptable for the authorities to take action in safeguarding political affairs from intrusive foreign elements.