Tony Pua’s travel ban challenge fizzles out

tony-pua_travel-ban_6001PUTRAJAYA: Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua’s challenge against the decision of the Immigration Department director-general to impose a travel ban has come to an end.

This follows today’s Federal Court ruling that dismissed his application for leave to appeal.

“The law is settled in Loh Wai Kong’s case, as decided by (the then Lord President Mohamed) Suffian Mohamed Hashim,” said Chief Justice Raus Sharif, who chaired a three-man panel.

Loh had sought a ruling that Malaysian citizens are entitled to travel overseas as a fundamental right under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.

However, the Federal Court bench, led by Suffian, held in 1979 that the right to personal liberty under Article 5 was only to challenge the authorities for any unlawful detention.

Government lawyer Shamsul Bolhasan submitted that there were two other subsequent cases to Loh that also held that the right to travel was only a privilege.

However, counsel Gobind Sigh Deo, appearing for Pua, said leave should be given to the apex court to determine whether the movement of citizens out of the country was a right or privilege.

“There are two conflicting authorities on this issue and the court must give leave to hear the merits of the case,” Gobind said.

Following today’s ruling, the prospects for the appeal by Bersih 2 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah and political cartoonist Zulkiflee SM Anwar Haque also look dim.

Both were also prohibited from leaving the country.

On July 4, Court of Appeal judge Idrus Harun also said although the right to life and personal liberty were guaranteed under the constitution, any deprivation of such a right was allowed if it was in accordance with the law.

“Section 59 (of the Immigration Act) is, in our opinion, one such law enacted by Parliament,” he said in the unanimous judgment that threw out Pua’s appeal for a declaration that the ban on his right to travel with a valid passport was unconstitutional.

Idrus, who delivered the judgment, said the Immigration Act also denied the right to be heard and this was legal as the law was approved by a competent legislature.

He had also said there was no express provision or implied duty for the director-general under the Immigration Act to state his reason for imposing the travel ban.

At the time of the travel ban, Pua was under investigation by police for being allegedly involved in an activity which the government claimed was detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

He took the authorities to court after he was prevented from leaving the country at the KL International Airport 2 on July 2, 2015.

The travel ban was later lifted but Pua continued with his legal battle.