Bersih's Mandeep Singh Is Barred From Entering Sarawak. We Spoke With Him To Know Why
On 15 February, Mandeep Singh was informed by an immigration officer at Kuching Airport that he is barred from entering Sarawak
The Bersih Secretariat Manager was informed by the immigration officer that the notice barring him from entering the Borneo state was issued on 28 January 2016, according to Malaysiakini. However, the 30-year-old civil society activist had, in fact, entered Sarawak on 13 February using his passport and there was no issue, the Malaysiakini report quoted Mandeep as saying.
"The immigration officer also told me I would be deported if I return to Sarawak."
For those wondering, Sarawak has autonomy over its immigration regulations and can bar Malaysians from Peninsular Malaysia from entering. And Mandeep Singh is not the first person to be barred.
Others on Sarawak's "blacklist" include Bersih Chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, her predecessor, lawyer and activist Ambiga Sreenevasan, Bersih 2.0 resource person Dr Wong Chin Huat, Opposition politicians like DAP's Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, PKR's Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli, and PKR's Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Two years ago, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, the then Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Home Affairs, was quoted by Sarawak Report as saying that there is "no ban on entry of opposition leaders into the state." He had opined that even though the state had the jurisdiction to ban any person believed to be a threat from setting foot on its land, such power would not be abused.
However, the names of the people listed from entering the state do suggest otherwise.
Earlier, Eric Paulsen of Lawyers for Liberty, while reacting to Sarawak's ban on Bersih's Mandeep Singh, had tweeted, saying:
To find out as to why was Mandeep Singh barred from entering Sarawak, Sadho from SAYS spoke with him over the email:
Sadho: Did the immigration officer at Kuching Airport gave you a reason as to why were you barred from entering Sarawak?
Mandeep: Yes, they told me that I'm barred from entering Sarawak as per instruction from the Chief Minister Office.
S: For how long are you barred from entering Sarawak?
M: This is the first time I'm being barred. I don't know for how long this bar is going to be. Some activists have been barred for almost 20 years.
S: Can you appeal against it?
M: I'm yet to discuss it with my lawyer in order to get further advice about appealing.
S: What's your next step of action?
M: For the meantime, I will keep on doing voter education and public education for Sarawak voters via other means. Maybe by using some technology.
S: In the Malaysiakini report you're quoted as saying that you entered Sarawak on 13 February using your passport without any issue. Did you raise it with the immigration officer at the Kuching airport? What was his response to it (if any)?
M: Yes, I did ask them how come I was allowed to go in on 13th February. Their answer was just rather lame or simple. They said that the officer in charge that day have might done a mistake or overlooked it.
Earlier in a statement issued by the Bersih Secretariat Manager, he was quoted as saying that he strongly protests and condemns this ban enacted by Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem against him
Sadho: Do you think Sarawak's move to bar you from entering the state has to do with its upcoming election?
Mandeep: Yes, of course. My entrance to Sarawak is just to promote free and fair election. Blocking me from entering is an attempt to disallow Sarawakians to know more on the right to vote, the right to basic education about democracy and more. Blocking (me) absolutely shows that Sarawak state government is trying to rig the election. Why block an election watchdog organisation if there is nothing to cheat?
When asked how does the ban makes him feel, he said:
"I've been in prison, being harass all the time. I remain cool and not intimidated at all. But it's really sad that I'm denied to enter a place in my own country."
The 30-year-old activist further told us that it was the first time he was being "denied to enter somewhere in my own country that I've been living in for over 30 years". SAYS also reached out to Chief Minister Adenan Satem's office but hasn't heard back at the time of publication. We'll update the story if and when we hear back.