Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has described the detention and deportation of Australian senator Nick Xenophon as "gross abuse of power" and "violation of international protocol".

"I condemn in the strongest terms the detention of Xenophon at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) who is said to be a security threat and branded an 'enemy of the state'.

kl112 rally people's uprising anwar ibrahim crowd story"The allegations are completely without foundation," he said in a statement today.

Anwar (left) reminded Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak that he has no right to treat visitors as enemies of the state merely because they are critical of his Umno-led administration.

"Malaysia does not belong to Umno. It belongs to all Malaysians regardless of political affiliation."

The PKR de facto leader stressed that while Xenophon has raised concerns about the probity of the coming general election, he has neither violated any written law nor conducted himself in a manner which may be considered as a threat to national security.

"Furthermore, he is here to be joined later by other Australian lawmakers for talks with us as well as officials of the Election Commission.

International protocol violated

"These reasons cannot be grounds to black list him. This act of detention and proposed deportation for partisan political reasons is therefore a gross abuse of power.

anwar with aussie senator pc 081210 nick xenophon"It is also clearly a violation of international protocol in the treatment of visiting law makers from abroad, particularly from member countries of the Commonwealth," he added.

Anwar called for Xenophon's (right)immediate release and be allowed to enter the country without further hindrance.

Met later at Chinese New Year open house organised by Batu PKR division at Jinjang Selantan, Anwar said the Immigration Department should not be manipulated by the ruling coalition.

"It was a political decision. My advice to the Immigration Department - they should know their responsibility. I don't mean to criticise them, but I know this was not their decision, it was an order from the top.

"When it comes to this matter, the Immigration Department has no choice. They are being manipulated by Umno," he said.

The independent senator was detained by immigration officials soon after he landed at LCCT at 6.40 early this morning under Section 8(3) of the Immigration Act.

The immigration department will deport him back to Melbourne on an AirAsia flight at 10.30 tonight.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australian officials have been in touch with Xenophon, as well as Malaysia's foreign and home ministers, and are seeking his "swift release" from custody.

He remarked that the detention is a surprising and disappointing act from a country with which Australia routinely maintains strong diplomatic relations.

Authorities told to apologise

Meanwhile, Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said the authorities should issue an apology to Xenophon.

“The Malaysian Bar reminds the prime minister that action must follow aspiration. In this instance, the authorities owe an unreserved apology to Xenophon and must promise such an incident will not happen again, to him or any other visitor, merely on the basis of their views,” said Lim in a statement today.

The Malaysian Bar also called on the government to allow the senator entry into the country, and to assure his Australian colleagues that they will be permitted entry as well.

NONELim (left) said the Bar is astounded at the absurdity of the Malaysian authorities in detaining Xenophon.

“Such shameful action on the part of the authorities shows the sizeable gulf between the aspirational statements of the prime minister that Malaysia is a modern democracy, and the irrational actions of the people around him.”

He pointed out that during the senator’s visit to Malaysia, he was scheduled to meet representatives of the government, members of the opposition, civil society groups, as well as leaders of the Malaysian Bar.

“The authorities are apparently relying on section 8(3) of the Immigration Act, which stipulates the classes of prohibited immigrants, as the legal basis for detention.  

“However, in the public mind the most natural inference is that the Malaysian government opposes, and is fearful of, the senator's views and comments, as he has been outspoken and critical of the government regarding issues of democracy and human rights.

“Criticism of policy and governance must be respected and received without reprisal, even if they contain inconvenient and uncomfortable truths. Any other reaction would be a sign of insecurity, and would disrespect the rule of law,” he added.

NONEElectoral reform coalition Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan also condemned the planned deportation, saying it reflects the paranoia of the government towards the coming general election.

“The deporting of Xenophon underscores the paranoia of the authorities about our elections. Why so scared?

“Deporting Nick Xenophon who supports free and fair elections here speaks volumes for the state of our elections,” she said in her Twitter webpage, describing the move as “embarrassing” and a “madness”.

~ Malaysiakini