Malaysia enforces stricter control over citizens' travel abroad, issuance of passport

Malaysians who defame or ridicule the government in any way can be barred from travelling overseas for three years.

Malaysians who defame the government in any way can be barred from travelling overseas for three years, a new law stipulates. People who disparage the government while abroad will also be blocked from travelling abroad again for three years upon their return.

According to The Star, a source disclosed that the immigration department enforced this rule several months ago in a move to safeguard the country's image. "Anyone who runs down the Government or 'memburukkan kerajaan' in any manner will be barred from going abroad. Only the Immigration Department director-general will be authorised to look into their appeals," the source said.

He also added that the department would act if there is a request from the enforcement agencies such as the police.

Immigration Director General Sakib Kusmi has confirmed the existence of such a provision and has also added that the ownership of a Malaysian international passport was a privilege and not a right. "The Malaysian international passport is a travel document issued by the Government under the aegis of the Yang DiPertuan Agong."

"So, the Government has the discretion to either issue, defer or revoke the travel document," he continued. However,, he did not disclose the total number of Malaysians who have been barred from leaving the country for showing disrespect towards the government.

It has been reported that people who are bankrupt, have legal cases against them or have yet to pay government loans are regularly stopped from leaving the country. When asked if Malaysians who are barred from travelling abroad could challenge this in court, Sakib answered that they had the right to do so.

He also said that back in 1995, the government had made a list of offences which included committing a crime at home or abroad, deliberately damaging passports and visiting Israel without approval which could cause a Malaysian to be temporarily barred from leaving the country.

In such cases, they can barred from travelling abroad for between two and 10 years.

As per the latest ruling, the source said Malaysians who are caught and deported for overstaying, committing a crime or working without a valid permit abroad will also be stopped from going overseas again for two years. "The names of these offenders will be added to a special blacklist," he said.

Also, Malaysians who are negligent and lose their passports three times in five years will not be issued a fresh passport for at least another two years. If someone's passport is destroyed due to carelessness such as by leaving the document in clothes put into washing machines he will also be penalised.

The source said: "Negligence means losing your passport if your car is stolen or while you are moving house. If your passport is destroyed twice, you will be issued with a written warning."

"If it happens three times in five years, then you too will be barred from applying for one to two years," he added.