Gerakan Youth deputy chief Andy Yong has questioned the lack of condemnation over the travel ban imposed on former premier Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor, saying the duo are innocent until proven guilty.
Yong in a statement today said the Bar Council and Bersih’s silence was is in contrast to their past objections to travel bans on Malaysians under his coalition’s rule.
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“Previously during BN’s ruling, very often the Bar Council and Bersih often raised their objection that a travel ban violated one’s right to life or personal liberty under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution.
“Why are they so quiet now? Didn’t our new prime minister talk about the need for rule of law to be followed? Isn’t a person presumed innocent until proven guilty?” said the Gerakan Youth leader.
Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution states: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law”.
He stressed he was not defending the former BN chief or taking sides and raised the argument of “personal liberty” that includes the right to travel abroad.
Yong was commenting on the travel ban imposed on Najib and Rosmah yesterday as reports of the duo’s planned trip abroad hit the spotlight.
Since the defeat of Najib’s coalition at the general election, the 1MDB scandal has again regained national attention, with newly minted prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announcing fresh investigations into the billion-dollar money laundering allegations.
‘Abuse of power’
However Yong said it is untenable for the PM or Immigration authorities to restrict an individual’s right to travel without giving any written reasons.
“There is a duty or obligation to give reasons in law when a fundamental right is denied.
“Whether Najib or Rosmah have committed any offence of not, it is for the court to decide.
“Failure to provide a reason for barring travel would imply that none exists and give rise to the perception of abuse of power,” said Yong.
Last year the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed then Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah’s judicial review against a ban imposed on her from travelling overseas.
The judge Nik Hasmat Nik Mohamad ruled that Section 59A(1) of the Immigration Act 1959 clearly states that any decision made by the home minister and Immigration director-general will not be subjected to a judicial review, except on procedural grounds.
She added the home minister and Immigration Department director-general are under no obligation to provide a reason for any person who has been imposed with a ban from travelling overseas.
Yong however argues there are no specific powers in the Immigration Act that says they can bar anyone from going without reason.
“However travel restrictions prompted by bankruptcy or the planned commission of terrorism may possibly be justified, which clearly doesn’t apply to Najib as of now,” said the Gerakan leader, a lawyer.