Malaysians living abroad should ignore a reported government threat to revoke the passports of those involved in anti-government activities, the Malaysian political reform group Global Bersih said on Wednesday.
In an escalating war of words following disputed elections this month that saw the ruling coalition return a slim majority, Global Bersih (GB) said this week’s reported threat by Malaysia’s head of immigration, Alias Ahmad, was unconstitutional.
“Keep in mind that is their constitutional right to freely express their opinion on all matters, including the divisive state of politics and the recently concluded poll,” said a statement by GB, the Malaysian diaspora division of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections based in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian-language daily Berita Harian reported on Monday that Alias had threatened to revoke the passports of more than 6,500 Malaysians living overseas who were involved in student protests following the disputed May 5 elections.
Alias reportedly added that authorities were legally entitled to withdraw passports when government opponents returned to Malaysia and could prevent them from leaving for three to five years.
Later on Monday, Alias responded to the report in a Twitter post denying he made the remarks, blaming the newspaper for “wrong reporting.”
Malaysia has become increasingly divided since this month’s disputed election as opposition parties have refused to accept the results and organized rallies against the government, which in turn has reponded by prosecuting organizers on sedition charges.