In this Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 photo, Australian senator Nick Xenophon, right, walks with Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AP
(Today Online) - “We made immediate and strenuous representations on his behalf, not only in relation to him being detained, but in terms of him being allowed to be in Malaysia,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Melbourne, where Mr Xenophon had arrived earlier. “Clearly we didn’t succeed. We will continue to pursue this issue with the Malaysian government.”
Australia is seeking further explanation from Malaysia about why an Australian Senator, who went to Malaysia to discuss electoral reform, was denied entry and deported, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday.
Malaysia refused entry on Saturday to independent Senator Nick Xenophon, with an immigration official saying the decision was due to his participation in an illegal street rally for electoral reform last year. The Malaysian government is bracing for an election within months that is expected to be the closest in the country’s history.
“We made immediate and strenuous representations on his behalf, not only in relation to him being detained, but in terms of him being allowed to be in Malaysia,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Melbourne, where Mr Xenophon had arrived earlier. “Clearly we didn’t succeed. We will continue to pursue this issue with the Malaysian government.”
Mr Xenophon was part of an unofficial delegation seeking to discuss the coming elections with members of the Malaysian government, opposition, judiciary and election commission. The other three members of the delegation cancelled their trip after Mr Xenophon was detained on arrival in Kuala Lumpur.
He said he had been told he had been detained because he was considered “a security risk”. The Malaysian government said he had broken the law on a previous visit. Mr Xenophon was invited to Malaysia last year by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and observed a major street rally for electoral reform in April that ended in violence. He later criticised the government’s handling of the rally.
“I understand the decision to deport me came from the highest levels of the Malaysian government,” Mr Xenophon said yesterday, adding that he had become the first Australian lawmaker to be deported from any country.
Australia and Malaysia have had a sometimes rocky diplomatic relationship. The two countries clashed 20 years ago when former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating called former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad “recalcitrant” for boycotting the 1993 Asia-Pacific economic forum.
Yesterday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia does not need to entertain Canberra’s criticism for expelling Mr Xenophon. The former Prime Minister said the Australian government was free to criticise but Malaysia’s government had the right to enforce its laws.
“If he comes here with no good intentions, might as well not come here,” Dr Mahathir said. “If (the Gillard administration) wants to criticise, they can criticise. We don’t have to entertain them,” he told reporters at a Chinese New Year celebration in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Approached by reporters, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was also with Dr Mahathir at the event, said he would not comment on the matter yesterday.