PETALING JAYA: The government must respect its citizens’ freedom of expression and promote healthy democracy, says MCA Youth Young Professionals Bureau Chairman Eric Choo Wei Sern.
Responding to news reports that Malaysians can be barred from leaving the country for discrediting or ridiculing the government, Choo said such practices will lead to an unhealthy democracy.
Choo pointed out that Prime Minister Najib Razak himself said in 2009, that “the days when the government knows best are over.”.
“As such, it is important that the government allows the people the freedom to have their own thoughts, form their own opinions and be able to express them, including criticising the government.
“He (Najib) noted that this should be the case, so long as their expressions are not, in the words of Lord Denning, ‘subversive to the existing constitution or a danger to the fabric of society’,” Choo said in a statement.
He said the issue, had been further exacerbated by Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Nur Jazlan Mohamed’s statement that the issuance of passports was a privilege, and not a right.
He, however, pointed out that Nur Jazlan may be correct in light of the decision of the Federal Court in the case of Government of Malaysia & Ors -v- Loh Wai Kong  1 LNS 22.
In that case, Loh, who had been charged with a criminal offence in 1976, had sought to renew his passport so he could return to Australia, where he was a permanent resident, to fulfill his visa conditions.
The authorities rejected the application, citing his involvement in a criminal case and that the issuance of a passport was at the discretion of the King.
Loh took legal action, seeking a court order to compel the government to issue him a passport, on the grounds that the right to travel abroad is a fundamental liberty protected by the Constitution, but the Federal Court ruled that the issuance of passports was a prerogative of the Malaysian government.
“The Federal Court has also held that the Government should act fairly and bona fide when considering applications for a new passport or for the renewal or passport and should rarely refuse to grant them.”
Yesterday, news reports, citing sources stated that Malaysians who discredit or ridicule the government could be barred from travelling overseas for three years.
This came following the barring of Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, from leaving for South Korea to receive a human rights award.