Feted abroad, but Ambiga gets banned from Sabah

by Anisah Shukry
The Malaysian Insider
15 November 2014

Just a day after receiving an international award in Hong Kong, prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan has been banned from entering Sabah ahead of her planned visit to Malaysia’s eastern-most state.

A letter informing the former Bar Council president of the ban was waiting for her when she returned to Malaysia yesterday, after she was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at the fourth Euromoney Legal Media Group Asia Women in Business Law Awards 2014 ceremony in Hong Kong on Thursday.

The letter, from the Sabah Immigration Department, was in response to Ambiga’s own letter to them on Tuesday, informing them of her intention to visit Sabah on November 25 for a programme with the new people’s movement, Negara-Ku.

“I had written to them because I don’t want to fly all the way there just to be told I’m not allowed in. It was just a formality, to confirm there was no restriction.

“But then they wrote back and said they had rejected my application – even though I wasn’t even applying for their permission to enter Sabah,” the Negara-Ku patron told The Malaysian Insider.

The visit to Sabah is part of Negara-Ku’s nationwide roadshow to “reclaim Malaysia” and return rationality, open and civil discussion, moderation and harmony to the country.

The roadshow began on Wednesday night in Malacca, and will cover six other states: Perak, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Sabah and Kuala Lumpur.

Endorsed by over 60 civil society groups, the movement’s patrons are Ambiga, national laureate Datuk A. Samad Said and former vice-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), Tan Sri Simon Sipaun.

Ambiga and Samad had both co-chaired electoral reforms group Bersih 2.0.

In her November 11 letter to Sabah Immigration Department director Noor Alam Khan A. Wahid Khad, Ambiga said she planned to travel to Sabah on November 25 (Tuesday) to speak at a forum on national unity, which will also feature Tan Sri Simon Sipaun and Datuk Dr Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan.

“Under Section 67 of the Immigration Act, 1959/63 [Act 155], I am entitled as of right to enter Sabah as my visit is for the sole purpose of engaging in a legitimate, non-partisan community activity.

“As I wish to finalise my plans, I would appreciate your urgent confirmation that there is no restriction of my entry into Sabah on that day,” she wrote.

But Noor Alam in his reply yesterday said her “application” had been forwarded to the state authorities, and that “it is with great regret that the application to enter Sabah has been rejected”.

Noor Alam did not provide any reason for barring Ambiga from the state.

Ambiga said this was the first time she was not allowed entry into Sabah, adding that the last time she had visited the state was before the general election when she had not faced any problems.

“I’m not going to appeal (to the department). I’m just going to take it straight to court. I will certainly be fighting. This is my country, I have my rights,” she stressed.

“I know the state has certain powers (to prevent people from entering), but in my view they have no reason to stop me. They can’t just stop people without good grounds.”

With this new ban, Ambiga’s movement is now restricted to the peninsular states; in 2011, the Sarawak Immigration director barred her from entering Sarawak and her bid to challenge the notice was denied by the Federal Court in 2012.

She said she did not know if the ban against her in Sarawak had been lifted yet, as she had not tried entering the state.

Asked about the award she received on Thursday, Ambiga played down the matter, saying it was a “small, private event.”

The Euromoney Legal Media Group Asia Women in Business Law Awards 2014 was aimed at celebrating the achievements of women in the legal profession throughout the region.

Legal Media Group is part of the London-based Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC, a leading international business-to-business media group focused primarily on the international finance sector.

The award ceremony on Thursday was held at the JW Marriott hotel in Hong Kong, and Ambiga, as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, had given a speech to the guests there. – November 15, 2014.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 15 November 2014 - 8:36 am

    To ban the leader of proponent of Moderation among Malaysia proves that Sabah leaders themselves are THE THREAT to Sabah’s (and Sarawak’s) traditional “way of life”. Structurally Sabah’s “way of life” is already DESTROYED – the reality is just a question of time, already half way there given the UMNO’s version of zionism being implemented in Sabah.

    Can there be any doubt that Sarawak’s and Sabah’s “way of life” is no match for UMNO zionistic hegemony given the local leader’s corruption?

  2. #2 by Justice Ipsofacto on Saturday, 15 November 2014 - 10:26 am

    Come on.
    Can I have some cheers from sabahans?

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