This article was first published in Malaysiakini, and is reproduced with permission.
by Annabelle Lee
17 May 2020
The Immigration Department's move to go ahead with its deportation exercise despite a court order against it could amount to contempt of court, said the Bar Council's M Ramachevam.
In a comment to Malaysiakini, the Migrants, Refugees and Immigration Affairs Committee chairperson said the deportation should have been held off.
"The action taken to deport the Myanmar nationals despite the stay order may amount to contempt of court.
"Status quo should have been maintained until 10am tomorrow pending further orders from the court in respect of the court proceedings that have commenced," he said.
Immigration director-general Khairul Dzaimee Daud said this evening that 1,086 Myanmar nationals - all undocumented - were sent home on three Myanmar navy ships today.
This morning the Kuala Lumpur High Court granted an interim stay against the department's plan to deport 1,200 Myanmar nationals until 10am tomorrow (Feb 24).
Ramachelvam said immigration would have been aware of the court order.
"The defendants would have been aware of the interim stay as they were represented by the Attorney-General's Chambers," he said.
He added that it was up to the applicants - NGOs Amnesty International Malaysia and Asylum Access Malaysia - to apply to the court to commence contempt proceedings.
The immigration department has yet to respond to Malaysiakini's request for comment over the deportation exercise.
Khairul insisted today that none of the 1,086 were ethnic Rohingya or asylum seekers.
However, UN refugee agency UNHCR said it could not verify this as it was not given access to the deportees. It previously urged Putrajaya to stop its deportation plans, concerned that women and children may be involved.
The deportation comes after the Myanmar military seized power from its civilian government.
Putrajaya had previously expressed "serious concern" over the coup.
Malaysia does not recognise refugees and regards the latter as undocumented migrants.
Despite the non-recognition, the country is home to an estimated 154,000 refugees from Myanmar, apart from the larger number of undocumented migrant workers.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv expressed shock over the government's move to deport the Myanmar nationals despite the court order.
"The Malaysian government's decision to deport people in defiance of an order from the High Court today was inhumane and devastating. We believed that with a court order, those due to be deported would be safe, and so we are shocked that the government went ahead with the deportation.
"It appears the authorities railroaded this shockingly cruel deportation before any proper scrutiny of the decision, and in spite of week-long calls for a proper assessment of the people on the list," she said in a statement.
She added that the deportation "undertaken in secrecy", and without access for the UN to the vulnerable people must not be allowed to happen again.
"Authorities must restore UN access to detention centres and allow it to carry out its life-saving work.
"Detention solely for immigration control should not be allowed to continue, and the government must work towards the release of those detained for this reason," she said.
Amnesty's lawyer Lim Wei Jiet said the immigration's action today speaks volumes of its respect towards the law.
"We are shocked at the authorities' disregard for a specific court order to stop the deportation.
"It was merely to stop the deportation for less than 24 hours. This conduct speaks volumes of their respect towards the law," Lim said.
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy pointed that the Immigration Department should be held responsible for defying a court order.
"Since the Attorney-General had dragged Malaysiakini to court for contempt of court proceedings because of five readers’ comments, we expect him to remain consistent and immediately begin proceedings to hold both the Home Ministry and Immigration Department liable to contempt of court – for they have done far more damage to our judiciary system and serve to undermine the public's view about court orders," he said in a statement.