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Azmin cries foul as state slams door on him

May 6, 2016

The Opposition says the controls -- meant to restrict unwanted migration -- are abused to keep them from gaining a firm foothold in Sarawak.

azmin-sarawakKUALA LUMPUR: One of Malaysia’s top Opposition leaders, Azmin Ali, said he was blocked Friday from entering the state of Sarawak and accused the ruling coalition of illegally turning away government opponents ahead of a weekend state election.

Azmin Ali, deputy-president of PKR issued a statement saying he was barred entry to the state on Borneo island after flying into its capital Kuching, and ordered back to mainland Malaysia.

The Opposition and civil-society leader said a string of politicians and activists had been barred from Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state by area, in the run-up to Saturday’s state assembly election, and slammed the move as a violation of political rights.

“This widespread barring of Opposition leaders from entering Sarawak is… a brazen violation of the law, utterly shameful and a manifestation of the reckless abuse of power,” said Azmin, who is also the Menteri Besar of Selangor, Malaysia’s richest and most developed state.

The refusal to allow certain individuals entry into Sarawak may reflect jitters within the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition over the election.

The BN is expected to retain firm control of Sarawak but the contest is being closely watched for signs that a corruption scandal swirling around Prime Minister Najib Razak is eroding coalition support with national elections looming by mid-2018.

Malaysia is divided between a portion on the Asian mainland, and another on huge Borneo island comprising the states of Sarawak and Sabah.

The two ruling coalition-controlled Borneo states enjoy a degree of autonomy stemming from the terms under which they joined Malaysia in the 1960s, including controls on entry from the country’s mainland.

The Opposition says the controls — meant to restrict unwanted migration — are abused to keep the Opposition from gaining a firm foothold.

Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem has defended the controls, denying they were aimed at BN opponents and saying they applied to all people who posed a threat to the state’s “harmony.”

Najib’s coalition has been shaken by allegations that billions of dollars were plundered from a state-owned investment fund he founded in 2009.

The allegations include the revelation that Najib personally received at least $681 million into his own bank accounts in 2013.

Najib and the state company, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), steadfastly deny that his money was syphoned from 1MDB.

Under decades of BN rule, Sarawak has remained one of Malaysia’s most underdeveloped states despite rich energy, timber and hydropower resources.



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