Malaysia’s opposition said Monday its top leaders have been blacklisted from a key state, decrying the move as illegal and aimed at stifling its message of ruling-coalition power abuse and election fraud.
The opposition said those banned by the state of Sabah include its leader Anwar Ibrahim, who has led a series of public rallies around the country to protest May 5 elections that he says were stolen by the ruling coalition.
“It’s really undemocratic and blatantly unjust because you are denying members of parliament to perform their duty in their own country,” Anwar told AFP, adding he would challenge Sabah authorities by flying there this weekend.
Lim Kit Siang, a top leader in the three-party opposition, says he was among others blacklisted, as was Ambiga Sreenevasan, co-leader of an NGO alliance that has staged massive past demonstrations demanding electoral reform.
The issue first came to light last week when Anwar’s parliamentarian daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar was prevented from entering Sabah. Lim said the additional bans were detailed in a document obtained from the Sabah state government.
Sabah officials could not immediately be reached.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Najib Razak said Sabah and Sarawak, two Malaysian states located on Borneo island, have “separate immigration systems to peninsular Malaysia and immigration powers rest with the state government”.
Reachable from mainland Malaysia only by sea and air, all visitors - even Malaysians - must go through an ID check upon entry.
Some political undesirables have been banned in the past by Sabah, which has been controlled by Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition since the mid-1990s.
Barisan retained parliament in May 5 elections but with less than half the popular vote in its worst performance in its 56 years in power. It has seen support ebb over issues including corruption and alleged misrule.
Anwar alleges massive Barisan fraud in the polls - which Najib has denied - and the opposition is demanding thorough reform of an electoral system widely considered biased toward Barisan.
Anwar said the alleged Sabah blacklist shows “they are scared that we will expose their corruption and abuse of power”.
The opposition and rights groups have accused Najib’s government of seeking to stifle the polling fraud allegations by laying sedition charges against several opposition figures and activists who have called for protests.
As a Barisan stronghold, Sabah proved crucial to the ruling coalition in the elections as its Barisan-controlled parliament seats helped it secure national power again.