KUCHING: The banning of undesirable persons like Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu and controversial columnist Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah is within the right of the Sarawak government.
Land Development Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing said this is because the state government does not want controversial personalities to disturb the peace and racial harmony the people are enjoying in the state.
“Sarawak is a land of peace and we want to keep it that way. We will not trade in social and religious peace for the sake of freedom of expression or uncontrolled democratic practices.
“The opposition are doing it in Malaya, just keep those practices there. We don’t need them here!” he said when commenting on Mat Sabu being denied entry into the state on Tuesday.
State Immigration director Ken Leben said the barring of Mohamad Sabu, better known as Mat Sabu, from entering Sarawak was upon the directive of the higher authorities in the state. He confirmed that Mat Sabu was one of those on the state immigration blacklist.
Meanwhile, state PKR chairman Baru Bian said the banning of Mat Sabu from Sarawak by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem was mystifying and disappointing.
Baru, who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said Mat Sabu is a well-regarded politician known to be a moderate Muslim, hardly belonging to the category of racial bigots and extremists whom the chief minister had said he would ban from Sarawak.
“There is no basis for the banning of political leaders from Peninsular Malaysia. The Immigration Act specifically allows the entry of Malaysians for legitimate political activities.
“Opposition and NGO leaders such as Nurul Izzah Anwar, Rafizi Ramli, Zuraida Kamaruddin, Tony Pua, Teresa Kok and Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan are advocates for the rights of the people to a true democracy, freedom of speech and assembly, and for fairness, justice and equality.
“There is nothing objectionable about any of these aspirations. The only reason I can think of for the chief minister’s ban on them is to stop them from bringing their message of change to Sarawakians.
“What is there to fear if you have been serving the people well?” he said in a press statement.
Baru said there was no reason given for the banning of Mat Sabu, adding that the irresistible conclusion was that this was a political move aimed at obstructing the opposition parties from carrying out their work.
“This is an abuse of our immigration autonomy, and it is disappointing that we are not progressing as a democracy under this Chief Minister, as we had hoped to.”
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed had defended the Chief Minister’s ban, saying it was the prerogative of Sarawak to deny any individual from entering.
However, Baru said this was precise because it is a prerogative power that the exercise of this discretion must be carried out in good faith.
“It was never the intention of those who fought for this autonomy that it be used for political purposes. By continuing his predecessor’s high-handed practice of banning opposition politicians from Peninsular Malaysia, the Chief Minister has shown that he is, in fact, not that much different from the previous administration, in spite of what he says and the image he seeks to portray.”