Wrong to base Tony Pua’s travel ban on just a police letter, court told

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PUTRAJAYA: The Immigration Department director-general was wrong to impose a travel ban on Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua based on a letter from the police, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said it was hearsay evidence and inadmissible in law.

“My client was only a witness in police investigations involving activities allegedly detrimental to parliamentary democracy,” he said in his submission before a three-man bench chaired by Mohd Zawawi Salleh.

Pua is appealing a High Court ruling last year that the director-general’s travel ban on him was constitutional.

Gobind today told the bench that the director-general had acted in a mechanical way instead of “addressing his mind to the matter to make his own decision”.

He said the director-general only had power to restrict anyone from entering the country but could not stop Malaysian passport holders from leaving in general.

He said bankrupts and those who had yet to settle their income tax or loans could be stopped because specific laws provided for such a travel ban.

Gobind said Pua had the legitimate expectation to travel as he had a valid passport.

“This is right as any travel ban is an encroachment into his personal liberty.” he said.

Government lawyer Shamsul Bolhasan said the passport was a privilege of the sovereign, not an absolute right of the citizen.

“It can be withdrawn anytime,” he said.

He said the Federal Court in 1979 had ruled the director-general had the authority to revoke a passport.

Shamsul said Pua’s grievance that his constitutional right of livelihood had been deprived was baseless.

“He is not deprived of his livelihood by the restriction to travel overseas. He can still move freely within the country and reside anywhere in the federation,” he said.

Shamsul said Pua did not deny that police had interviewed him in an on-going investigation – irrespective of whether he was a witness or a suspect.

He said Pua’s complaint was also not subject to judicial review as the Immigration Act had excluded the court from scrutinising the director-general’s decision on this matter.

Zawawi, who sat with justices Idrus Harun and Kamardin Hashim, deferred decision as far reaching constitutional issues had been raised.

Pua, who is also DAP national publicity secretary, filed a judicial review in 2015, seeking to quash the travel ban.

He had been barred from leaving Malaysia when he was about to fly to Yogjakarta, Indonesia.

Speaking to reporters, Pua said the ban had since been lifted but he was pursing the appeal as he was seeking damages and to determine the limits of the director-general’s power.