Malaysia imposes travel ban on critics, dissidents

Kuala Lumpur, May 18 (IANS) Malaysia is barring for three years travel abroad by its citizens who criticise or ridicule the government to “safeguard the country’s image”, officials said Wednesday.

“Anyone who runs down the government or ‘memburukkan kerajaan’ in any manner, will be barred from going abroad,” the immigration department told the Star daily.

The three-year ban has been in force for several months, Immigration Director Sakib Kusmi said.

“The Malaysian international passport is a travel document issued by the government…so, the government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke the travel document,” claimed Sakib, without disclosing the number of people who have been affected by the move so far.

In the last few months, activists, detractors and dissidents have been detained without any explanations by immigration authorities when they have been about to leave the country.

Some of the people who were affected by this move includes lawmaker Tony Pua from the Democratic Action Party, critical of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been embroiled in a corruption scandal involving diversion of a billion dollars from a state fund into his personal accounts.

Others hit by the travel ban include Maria Chin Abdullah, one of the leaders of the Bersih 2.0 movement, which demands free and fair elections, and activist Hishamuddin Rais, who dodged a prison sentence this week over a sedition charge.

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