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Call for blacklisting Malaysian preacher-politicians

They were escalating racial and religious tensions, as well as social discord in Sabah and Sarawak, it was alleged
Two men stand in front of a wall of pictures of Malaysian leaders at the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) office in Kuala Lumpur on May 10, 2018

Two men stand in front of a wall of pictures of Malaysian leaders at the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) office in Kuala Lumpur on May 10, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 05, 2024 10:50 AM GMT
Updated: April 05, 2024 11:31 AM GMT

Two prominent rights activists in Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak have urged the local government to ban five politicians for allegedly stoking racial and religious tensions in the region.

Sarawakian activist Peter John Jaban and Sabahan activist Atama Katama, in a joint statement issued on April 4, called for blacklisting United Malays National Organization (Umno) Youth chief Muhamad Akmal Saleh among others, the Dayak Daily reported.

The group alleged that Mohammed Ridhuan Tee Abdullah, Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu, Syakir Nasoha, Firdaus Wong Wai Hung along with Saleh were escalating racial and religious tensions, as well as social discord in the region.

The Islamic preachers holding significant political influence in Muslim-majority Malaysia, have allegedly made hate speeches and inflammatory remarks against other religions, the group said.

Jaban represents the Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations (SAPA) and Katama represents the Sabah Defenders of Ancestral Lands.

The list was proposed “to protect the interests of our region, maintain a peaceful environment, and uphold the values of inclusivity, tolerance, and social harmony,” Jaban said.

Some 60 percent of Malaysia’s 2.9 million Christians lives in the states of Sabah and Sarawak in the eastern part of the country.

Citing Sarawak’s autonomy to regulate its immigration powers as outlined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), he urged the Sarawakian government to act against people promoting separatism in the region.

Under the terms of the Malaysia Agreement, Sarawak and Sabah have autonomy over immigration, and Sarawak has regularly used its autonomy to bar Malaysians from the peninsular whom it deemed to be undesirable.

Jaban stressed that the residents in the region are “peaceful people.”

The blacklisting move would align with the State government’s long-standing practice of preventing individuals who pose a threat to the multi-racial and religious harmony of Sarawak from entering the state, he said.

Jaban said that the State’s immigration autonomy allowed it to bar “extremists, religious bigots, and troublemakers from other states, including foreigners," from entering the region.

“Therefore, we demand that the Premier of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, should build a new list of people that we don’t want to come to Sarawak,” Jaban said.

“This is an effort to retain the peaceful situation in Sarawak, as the late former Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem has added two more people to his immigration blacklist: ex-Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali and Sungai Besar Umno division chief Datuk Seri Jamal Md Yunos,” Jaban added.

Satem had banned Ali from entering Sarawak in 2014. At the height of the Allah row at that time, Ali had angered Sarawakians when he suggested that all native language bibles with the word 'Allah' be seized and burned.

Katama on the other hand stated that the call for an updated immigration blacklist is intended to protect Sarawak and Sabah’s interests, maintain a peaceful environment, and uphold the values of inclusivity, tolerance, and social harmony.

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