Banned from Sabah, Ambiga speaks at Negara-Ku forum via Skype

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KUALA LUMPUR: Prominent lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan addressed about 150 people at the Negara-Ku nationwide roadshow to “reclaim Malaysia” in Kota Kinabalu through Skype on Tuesday night, despite being banned from entering Sabah.

Event moderator Gerald Joseph said Ambiga, who is also the movement’s patron, spoke to the crowd for about 20 minutes from Kuala Lumpur.

She also took questions from the floor which lasted another 40 minutes.

Gerald said Tuesday’s event only showed that the prohibition to stop Ambiga from addressing the people’s legitimate concerns was not effective.

“You can stop the messenger … but not the message,” Gerald told The Malaysian Insider.

He said some among the crowd criticised the Sabah government and immigration authorities for stopping Ambiga from entering the state, as she is not a threat to national security and public order.

Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, a former Human Rights Commissioner, said the authorities owes Malaysians an explanation for banning Ambiga from entering the state to participate in a legitimate activity.

“As a Malaysian, her right to freedom of movement and expression has been unreasonably restricted,” said Sipaun, who also spoke at the forum.

Other speakers were Sabah State Reform Party or Star party chief and Bingkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan and Negara-Ku chairman Zaid Kamaruddin.

The event in Sabah is part of Negara-Ku’s programme to return the nation to rationality, allow for open and civil discussion, moderation and harmony.

The roadshow began two weeks ago in Malacca and covered six other states: Perak, Johor, Negeri 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 Sipaun.

Gerald said the organisers decided to resort to Skype after Ambiga was notified on Nov14 that she had been banned from entering the state.

A letter from the Sabah Immigration Department had been sent to Ambiga in response to her inquiry to them on Nov 11, informing them of her intention to visit Sabah on Nov 25 for a programme with 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,” she said.

The civil lawyer said that under Section 67 of the Immigration Act, she was entitled to enter Sabah as the trip was for engaging in a legitimate, non-partisan community activity.

The department did not provide any reason for barring Ambiga from the state.

The Sarawak immigration authorities also stopped her from entering the state during the April state election in 2011 but her legal challenge fizzled out as she filed the suit in Kuala Lumpur.

The Federal Court ruled she should have started her case in Kuching as there were two high courts (Malaya, and Sabah and Sarawak) of equal jurisdiction.

Ambiga, when contacted yesterday, said she was pleased to be able to speak to the enthusiastic crowd and to interact with those present.

“All such bans are no longer working due to technological advancements,” she said, adding that she would be filing for a judicial review in Kuching through a lawyer there.

She has 90 days from Nov14 to do so. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 27, 2014.