PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has defended Malaysia's swap deal with Australia, saying: “In the world these days, you cannot hide things any more.”
The Home Minister added: “Any abuse would be displayed for the world to see instantaneously. We will have to be very careful, if we are allowed to carry on, to ensure that everything is done properly.”
He said this in interviews published by Australian newspapers The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, his first comments since Canberra rejected the deal in which Australia would send to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers in return for 4,000 refugees.
Australia's opposition and refugee advocates have slammed Malaysia for not being a signatory to the United Nations' refugee convention, detaining illegal immigrants and, in some cases, caning them.
“Are you telling me Malaysia is so bad that we are worse than the human traffickers?” asked Hishammuddin, who was also reported as saying that Malaysia was working towards improving its treatment of refugees and illegal workers.
“There will be a mechanism when we operationalise this,” he said, rejecting a suggestion to send the asylum seekers to Nauru, a country in the Micronesia islands in the South Pacific.
He said the move would not work, adding that it was not likely to stop human traffickers sending boats to Australia.
Australia's immigration department officials had earlier also turned their back on the proposal.
Hishammuddin agreed that the plan to send asylum seekers to Nauru was flawed because the remote Pacific island was not a transit country for asylum seekers like Malaysia and as such would not deter people smugglers.
He said Malaysia remains committed to the refugee exchange with Australia.