PETALING JAYA: The authorities have the power to bar a citizen from leaving the country when they discredit or ridicule the Government, says constitutional expert Assoc Prof Dr Shamrahayu A. Aziz.
She said the freedom to leave or travel outside the country is linked to whether a citizen has the right to a passport.
“A person has no automatic right to a passport as it is a privilege given by the Government. It is the Government’s discretion whether to allow or bar someone from leaving the country,” she said yesterday.
She was asked if it was constitutional for the Government to bar any Malaysian who discredit or ridicule the Government from leaving the country.
Shamrahayu noted that those with pending criminal charges or any court cases normally would not be allowed to leave the country.
“If a citizen is unhappy with the Government’s decision, they can always go to court,” she said.
Several people who criticised the Government have been barred from leaving the country along with politicians and social activists.
The most recent was on Sunday when Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah was barred from leaving for South Korea to receive a human rights award. On Dec 5 last year, social activist Hishamuddin Rais claimed he was barred from leaving, also to South Korea.
Others who were barred last year included DAP MP Tony Pua; SRC International Sdn Bhd managing director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil, The Edge Media Group owner Datuk Tong Kooi Ong and PKR MP Rafizi Ramli.
During the Parliament sitting in March, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that since 2011, 827,921 citizens had been barred from leaving the country, mostly people who were bankrupt. There were 200,727 bankrupts.
Generally, countries have grounds to restrict individual citizens from leaving their country.
The barring of those who tarnish the country’s reputation from leaving is also done by other countries.
An online portal reported that Dutch journalist Ebru Umar was barred from leaving Turkey on April 25 after she posted tweets that were critical of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The New York Times reported that the Egyptian Government has barred human rights campaigners from leaving the country.
According to BBC News, Chinese human rights activist Ni Yulan was barred from leaving China just as she was planning to travel to the United States to receive an award.