Not right to bar people from travelling, say Malaysian lawyers

Not right to bar people from travelling, say Malaysian lawyers
PHOTO: The Straits Times

PETALING JAYA - While there are many reasons to bar a person from leaving Malaysia, the Immigration Department can only do so for people having invalid passports.

Constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew pointed out that the police or other law enforcement bodies, however, were allowed to bar a person from travelling abroad for evading taxes.

"Generally, a person can be prevented from leaving Malaysia if the person has unpaid taxes," he said in an e-mail.

Besides tax evasion, New said one could also be barred from leaving the country if investigated for offences under specific laws such as the Securities Commission Act 1993, Financial Services Act 2013 or the Anti Money-Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

Referring to the travel restrictions imposed on several opposition MPs and activists, Bon Advocates head of chambers Edmund Bon contended that it was not legal for the Immigration Department to bar them without a court order compelling them to surrender their passports.

"From the legal perspective, one's passport must either be declared invalid or surrendered to the court," he said.

Lawyer Andrew Khoo said there were no provisions under the Immigration Act to bar Malaysians from travelling overseas without reason.

"They can't stop anyone unless they suspect their passport is fraudulent," said Khoo, who serves as the Bar Council Human Rights Committee chair.

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