Abolish administrative deportation and punishments; respect freedom of expression

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Graphic: Geralt/Pixabay

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled by the administrative decision and action of the Malaysian Immigration Department that decided to deport and permanently bar the re-entry of one Md Rayhan Kabir, a Bangladeshi national, that was allegedly featured in the Al-Jazeera documentary Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown (Malay Mail, 25 July 2020).

“This Bangladeshi national will be deported and blacklisted from entering Malaysia forever,” said its director general Khairul Dzaimee Daud.

Such actions and/or decisions, that affect the life and liberty of a person, should never be the administrative decisions of any individual government department or even the cabinet. It must be a decision of the courts after the alleged perpetrator is accorded his or her right to a fair trial.

The media report suggests this may be a decision of the Immigration Department, not even the prime minister and/or the cabinet.

Such arbitrary decisions of the Immigration Department have many a time in the past undermined the administration of justice, and allowed perpetrators of crime to escape scot-free and victims to be denied existing legal rights, now available in Malaysian laws.

Whenever a migrant or migrant worker raises a complaint of rights violation, even after he or she has already lodged a complaint at the relevant department and agency, some employers tend to respond by terminating their employment and/or getting their permits/visas cancelled, resulting in their having to leave Malaysia. In the Malaysian administration of justice system, the failure of the complainant to turn up for proceedings will generally mean a discontinuation of the investigation and/or administration of the justice process – which allows the perpetrators to escape scot-free and results in the victims being denied justice.

Foreigners have also been asked to leave and/or deported by the Immigration Department, despite the requirement of their presence in Malaysia as witnesses or victims for the purposes of investigation, trials or other administration of justice processes. Crucial witnesses, even in the Wang Kelian human trafficking case, may today be no more in Malaysia, which will make it near impossible for perpetrators to be tried and successfully convicted.

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In this case, the popular understanding is that the relevant authorities are currently investigating the said Al Jazeera documentary, in which allegedly Md Rayhan Kabir was featured. As such, would not the deportation of this potential witness and/or perpetrator affect the ongoing investigation, and even trials if anyone is to be charged later in court? If Md Rayan Kabir had indeed committed a crime, then justly he should be charged, accorded a fair trial and sentenced according to the Malaysian law, and not be prematurely sent out of the country. Thereafter, Malaysia may not be able to bring him back and charge him, or have him as a witness. Even in the 1MDB trials, Malaysia cannot even manage to secure the return of alleged perpetrators and/or key witnesses, who are now in some other country.

The government, the police and/or the Immigration Department may believe someone is guilty, but it is irrelevant until that person is charged, tried and found guilty by the courts. Malaysia and the world do acknowledge the legal principle that one is innocent until proven guilty in court.

The Malay Mail report stated: “Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador had said that the police and the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) have found that the documentary contained seditious elements.”

The beliefs and/or conclusion of the police and/or even the Attorney General’s Chambers are really irrelevant until a court of law, after a fair trial, determines the guilt or innocence of any accused persons. Many in the past who have been charged and tried have been found not guilty by the courts.

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If the deportation is not stopped, the concern is that many will believe that Malaysia is simply trying to avoid a fair trial. If Malaysia is truly convinced that he is guilty of a crime, then charge and try him in Malaysian courts in accordance with Malaysian laws.

To suggest that Md Rayhan Kabir is ‘guilty’ simply because he appeared in the said documentary maybe unreasonable. He certainly did not edit and/or produce the documentary, and it is totally unreasonable to jump to any conclusion now that all who allowed themselves to be interviewed or featured in the said documentary are guilty. What did he actually say which was breaking the law? Did the producers edit his comments, choosing to simply include certain parts? Did he even see the final documentary and specifically agree to it? Should we all now be scared to be interviewed by the press or documentary makers, when we have really no control about the finally published report or documentary.

It must be noted that historically, the [efforts by the] media and others responsible for highlighting alleged crime, wrongdoings, injustices and human rights violations have led to investigation and prosecutions and even policy and legal reforms. If the New Straits Times did not highlight the Wang Kelian issue and even the Kuantan bauxite issue, would the government even have taken action? The same also may apply to the cases connected to 1MDB and SRC. A recent foreign media report about labour violations moved Malaysian authorities to investigate whether there was ‘forced labour’ in a Malaysian factory.

The [efforts by the] media and ordinary persons speaking up and/or highlighting alleged or suspected wrongdoings, crimes, lacunas, injustices and rights violations are very important in bringing about not just government actions, but also needed reforms in policy, law and practice. A recent United Nations special rapporteur’s report maybe caused Malaysia to increase the household poverty line income threshold from RM980 to RM2,208.

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Human rights defenders are now recognised under the 1998 United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (The declaration on human rights defenders). This declaration outlines responsibilities for everyone to promote human rights, to safeguard democracy and its institutions, and not to violate the human rights of others, and includes a duty to highlight allegations of violations.

Md Rayhan Kabir is a human rights defender, as he bravely shared his thoughts and opinions when many in Malaysia simply fear to speak up.

Therefore, Madpet:

  • Calls for the non-deportation of human rights defender Md Rayhan Kabir and that he be charged and accorded a fair trial if he has indeed committed any offence
  • Calls for the abolition of the administrative deportation of foreigners and consider whether the sentence of deportation be incorporated in relevant offences
  • Calls for Malaysia to respect freedom of expression, opinion and the media and to ensure that when allegations are highlighted, there would be investigations to verify the truth, that could also lead to the prosecution and fair trial of the accused
  • Reiterates the call for the abolition of the Sedition Act and also administrative punitions, including detention without trial and deportation

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of the Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet)

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