Opposition MPs urge Putrajaya to explain ‘contempt of court’ move by Immigration to deport Myanmar nationals

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
·4-min read
Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia are seen inside an immigration truck, in Lumut February 23, 2021. — Reuters pic
Myanmar migrants to be deported from Malaysia are seen inside an immigration truck, in Lumut February 23, 2021. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 — A decision by the government and Immigration Department to deport some 1,086 Myanmar nationals yesterday evening, despite a court order temporarily blocking it, could be deemed as a contempt of court, Opposition MPs said today.

Sungai Buloh MP Sivarasa Rasiah, during a Zoom tele conference held this morning alongside other opposition lawmakers, said the Immigration Department should have been aware of the court order as proceedings were held inter-parte, with lawyers representing the agency present during the hearing.

“To my mind there is a contempt of court, but that would need to be raised during today’s hearing.

“However, most importantly is how the court order was given in an inter-parte proceedings, the Immigration Department’s director general would have known about the order because his lawyers were there and present in court.

“There is no question about not being informed of the court order,” Sivarasa said this morning.

Sivarasa, a lawyer by profession, conceded that there was nothing much can be done now for those already deported.

“For the ones that have already left, nothing can be done,” he said.

The tele conference today was organised by Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah, who is also the former Bersih chairperson, as the Opposition pressed for answers from the Malaysian government over their decision to ignore the court order and deport the foreign nationals.

Also weighing in was Klang MP Charles Santiago, who said the decision to deport these Myanmar nationals, despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) previously condemning the February 1 military coup that took place there, pointed towards the cooperation between two illegitimate governments.

“It is bothersome that Malaysia is doing business with the military junta that overthrew a legitimately elected government; such actions are in violation with the principles of the Asean agreement.

“Previously MOFA criticised the coup, but now it seems the government is working with an unelected government.

“This seems to be a relationship between two unelected governments,” he quipped.

The 1,086 Myanmar nationals were deported yesterday via three military vessels sent by the Myanmar military through the Lumut navy port.

Lumut MP Datuk Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli, who was also part of the meeting, explained the foreign nationals left the Lumut port at around 6.30pm yesterday, despite the temporary stay of deportation already being granted by the courts hours earlier.

“My officers went to the port at around 4.30 to hand over the court order to the Immigration Department’s D-G, but by the time they arrived, they were told the D-G had already left the compounds.

“Then later at around 6.30pm, I was informed that the ship had already sailed,” he said.

During the teleconference, the Opposition MPs also pressed for the government to allow representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to those detained for investigations into their situation to be conducted.

They chided the government for deporting the foreign nationals back to their home country which is currently experiencing a junta takeover, saying such actions went against all international conventions.

“Following the court's decision yesterday, the Immigration D-G should be a bit more cautious when sending back these 1,000 over Myanmar nationals.

“Their country is going through a coup and yet he is sending them back there,” said Batu Kawan MP Kashturi Patto.

This after a statement by the Immigration Department D-G Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud yesterday confirmed that 1,086 Myanmar nationals were deported back to their home country via the Lumut navy port, hours after the court’s stay of deportation was granted.

Khairul had said those deported had been detained in detention centres across the country following crackdowns last year, adding only people deemed as undocumented migrants were repatriated, which does not include asylum seekers and those from the ethnic Rohingya community.

He claimed those deported did so on a voluntary basis and were not forced to do so by any quarters.

However, rights groups explained that non-Rohingya refugees were part of those deported.

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