Immigration ban discriminatory and impractical, says lawyer

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Paulsen says that while the immigration department has extremely wide powers, whether their actions were constitutional were a separate matter.

PETALING JAYA: The Immigration Department’s plan to deny entry to foreign participants of a gay event scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur later this month has been criticised.

Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said the ban appeared to be arbitrary, discriminatory and impractical.

He noted that while the enforcement agency has extremely wide powers, whether their actions were constitutional were a separate matter.

“But, more importantly, the ban seems highly arbitrary, not well thought out and reacting to what has been sensationalised.

“Drinking beer or being gay is not an offence in Malaysia. It is not a serious issue to expend so much resources unlike, for instance, terrorism or foreigners entering with false visas, among others.

“It is also impractical. How are they going to identify them?

“It will also have a serious impact on tourism as people can’t plan their holidays if bans are imposed on a whim,” he told FMT.

Paulsen was asked to comment on a statement by Immigration Department director-general Mustafar Ali that the department is gathering information from the police and enforcement agencies to deny entry to foreign participants of a gay event scheduled to be held in Kuala Lumpur later this month.

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan said the powers of the immigration director-general are spelled out in the Immigration Act.

Syahredzan:Immigration DG's powers must be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner.
Syahredzan:Immigration DG’s powers must be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner.

He noted that these powers are wide, especially when it relates to entry of foreign nationals to Malaysia.

He noted that, for instance, the DG is given the power to prohibit entry of a foreigner in the interest of any economic, industrial, social, educational or other conditions in Malaysia.

Syahredzan also said that if a permit or pass has already been issued, the DG has the power to cancel any pass or permit.

“So, yes, the immigration DG has powers. However, these powers must be exercised in a reasonable and proportionate manner.

“It would be difficult to justify banning entry to an individual into Malaysia simply because of his intention to attend an event.

“Of course, there is also the practical difficulty in trying to determine which of the thousands of tourists coming to Malaysia are going for the event,” he said.

Mustafar had said the move was to ensure individuals entering Malaysia for the event would be served with the “Not To Land” (NTL) notice under Section 8 of the Immigration Act 1559/63.

“The government has decided to ban the event and the Immigration (Department) has been instructed to restrict any individual or organiser from entering the country.

“I also do not understand those who question the immigration about prohibiting individuals involved in the event from coming to Malaysia.

“This event is against our country’s culture and this is not just about Islam. It is too abnormal for us in Malaysia,” he had said.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, on Friday, said the Malaysian government would not allow any gay event or party, reportedly planned to be held in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 30.