PETALING JAYA: Two prominent activists have condemned Putrajaya after a Turkish national and his family were handed over to Ankara, despite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) classifying him a “person of concern” who could be harmed if he was forcibly returned to his home country.
Prominent Muslim spokesman Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa and former ambassador Dennis Ignatius said the latest action of deporting Arif Komis, his wife and their young children was shameful and proof that the present ruling coalition’s commitment to defend human rights was a sham.
“We voted them into power thinking that the standard of human rights would improve. But they are just another group of arrogant politicians who only talk without having anything in effect,” Farouk, who heads the Islamic Renaissance Front told FMT.
Ignatius contrasted the treatment meted out to Komis with government leaders’ repeated defence of Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who has been charged in absentia in India with money laundering.
Ignatius recalled a statement by Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah in which he assured that Putrajaya would be more careful in “sending people back”, with a promise to scrutinise extradition requests based on the spirit of human rights, freedom and the rule of law.
“Now we are left to wonder whether all those grand statements about human rights are just empty rhetoric, a mere ruse to justify the government’s refusal to deport Zakir Naik,” the outspoken former envoy told FMT.
FMT has learnt that Komis who arrived in Turkey with his wife and their four young children today was swiftly detained by police.
His deportation comes some two years after Malaysia fulfilled a similar request by the Turkish government to deport three of its nationals from Malaysia, which drew strong reactions from rights groups.
Ankara accuses Komis, who works at a Turkish private school in Kuala Lumpur, of links to the Gulen group, a faith-based social movement inspired by the teachings of exiled Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The Turkish government and official media call the group Feto, or Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, and has accused it of masterminding the failed coup in 2016.
Farouk described the move to deport Komis as the latest in a long chain of incidents “that was like a knife that strikes deep into our hearts”, and warned that Malaysia risked being known as a “pariah state” in the eyes of the international community for its disregard of human rights and rule of law.
Farouk took to task Saifuddin for not fulfilling a promise to observe an SOP to ensure that no one will be victimised by deportations.
He said following the outrage by rights groups over Malaysia’s deportation of four men to the Egyptian military regime earlier this year, Saifuddin had said that future cases would be referred to his ministry first.
“But it seems that the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. And that the police have their own SOP and were oblivious of any such rule or regulations by Wisma Putra.
“To me it only shows how incompetent the foreign minister is in ensuring that human rights is observed in the new Malaysia,” said Farouk.
Ignatius said the policy of deporting exiles wanted by authoritarian regimes was a shameful practice under the previous government, and was done to appease fellow Muslim states.
“It also raises the question of double standards – those fleeing persecution or prosecution from non-Muslim countries are given special protection whereas Muslims fleeing well-documented persecution from their own governments are sent back. It is imperative that the government adopts a fair and transparent policy for all such cases in the interest of upholding the rule of law,” he said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International described the move to send back the Komis family as “deplorable”
“The family is at risk of serious human rights violations or abuses back in their country,” said Amnesty Malaysia’s executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.
“The Malaysian authorities must never deport individuals where there is clear evidence of the human rights violations they may face at their destination,” she said, adding that Komis must be released “unless there is credible evidence of internationally recognisable criminal acts”.
Earlier, Human Rights Watch said the Pakatan Harapan government under Dr Mahathir Mohamad was “turning out to be just as bad as Najib and Barisan Nasional” in failing to protect refugees.
“This is a schoolteacher and his family who are persons of concern to UNHCR, with legal documents to work in Malaysia. They should be released and allowed to seek refugee protection,” HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson told FMT.
Komis is an asylum-seeker registered with the UNHCR office in Malaysia.
FMT has sighted a letter by the UNHCR urging Komis not to be deported to Turkey pending a decision on his application for refugee status.
FMT has reached out to the UNHCR for comments and is awaiting their response. The Turkish embassy in Malaysia has meanwhile refused to comment on the matter.