Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law has been deported from Malaysia for running a radio station critical of the government in the country’s largest state.
Clare Rewcastle Brown, who is married to Mr Brown’s younger brother Andrew, was on Wednesday expelled from the state of Sarawak, a former British colony on the island of Borneo, just a day before David Cameron was to meet the Malaysian prime minister in London.
An immigration official said that she had been deported on a Wednesday afternoon flight to Singapore after she was identified as being on a travel blacklist.
As the founder of London-based broadcaster Radio Free Sarawak, Mrs Rewcastle Brown’s activities have been an irritation to authorities in the state, of which the station is fiercely critical.
It has been particularly scathing of the leadership of Sarawak’s chief minister Taib Mahmud, a key political ally of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Rasak and the subject of an ongoing corruption probe.
The deportation of a relative of a former British Prime Minister will be a huge embarrassment to Mr Najib ahead of crucial talks aimed at boosting Malaysian investment in the UK. Mr Cameron is expected to press Mr Najib on the reasons for Mrs Rewcastle Brown being denied entry to Malaysia.
In a video posted on Youtube, 53-year-old Mrs Rewcastle Brown alleged that she had been barred from Sarawak to prevent her meeting the lawyers defending her against a defamation suit brought by an unnamed company.
“How can I have a fair trial in these circumstances?” said Mrs Rewcastle Brown, who was born in Sarawak to British parents. “The fact that I am being turned away shows exactly how this country is being run for the benefit of the sort of people who are suing me now.”
She was refused permission to enter Malaysia after landing in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, at lunchtime on Wednesday, according to local politician See Chee How.
“A senior immigration officer told her that there is an instruction from the State Security Office not to allow her to enter Sarawak. A ‘Notice of Refusal of Entry’ was issued to her,” said Mr See in a statement.
Mrs Rewcastle Brown was put on an official blacklist in 2011, an official later said.
Founded in 2010, Radio Free Sarawak has consistently highlighted the corruption endemic in Sarawak after 30 years of rule by Mr Taib, as well as the loss of huge swathes of rainforest to make way for lucrative logging and mining concerns.
Mr Taib, a member of Prime Minister Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, is thought to be Malaysia’s richest man with a fortune of £10 billion. Sarawak, though, remains one of Malaysia’s poorest states and Mr Taib’s opponents claim he has used his position to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the state’s 2.5 million people. The state has recently seen calls from civil groups for independence from Malaysia, though talk of secession is considered by authorities to be seditious.