KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians who discredit or ridicule the Government in whatever way can be barred from travelling overseas for three years.
Those who disparage the Government while abroad will also be barred from travelling abroad again for three years upon their return.
A source said that the Immigration Department had enforced this ruling several months ago in a move to safeguard the country's image.
"Anyone who runs down the Government or 'memburukkan kerajaan' in any manner will be barred from going abroad.
"Only the Immigration Department director-general will be authorised to look into their appeals," he said, adding that the department would act once there was a request from enforcement agencies such as the police.
Read also: Netizens poke fun at RespectMyPM campaign
Immigration director general Datuk Sakib Kusmi, in an email reply to The Star, confirmed the existence of such a provision, adding that the ownership of a Malaysian international passport was a privilege and not a right.
"The Malaysian international passport is a travel document issued by the Government under the aegis of the Yang DiPertuan Agong.
"So, the Government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke the travel document," he said.
Sakib could not provide statistics on the number of Malaysians who have been barred from leaving the country for discrediting or ridiculing the Government.
However, it is known that those who are bankrupt, have legal cases against them or have yet to pay government loans, are regularly stopped from leaving the country.
Asked if Malaysians who are barred from travelling abroad could challenge this in court, Sakib said they had the right to do so.
He said the Government had initially made a list of offences that could cause a Malaysian to be temporarily barred from leaving the country back in 1995.
Individuals convicted for committing a crime at home or abroad, deliberately damaging passports and visiting Israel without approval are among the offences listed.
They can be barred from travelling abroad for between two and 10 years.
Read also: Famous people hit by true public emotions on Facebook
Under the latest ruling, the source said, Malaysians who are caught and deported for overstaying, committing a crime or working without a valid permit abroad will also be barred from going overseas again for two years.
"The names of these offenders will be added to a special blacklist," he said.
Separately, the source said Malaysians who are negligent and lose their passports three times in five years will not be issued another one for a minimum of two years.
"Negligence means losing your passport if your car is stolen or while you are moving house," he said.
Those whose passports are destroyed due to carelessness - by leaving the document in clothes put into washing machines, for example - will also be penalised.
"If your passport is destroyed twice, you will be issued with a written warning.
"If it happens three times in five years, then you too will be barred from applying for one to two years," he said.
Read also: Malaysians turn to humour in Najib saga