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Double-standard policing

Corrected at 3.40pm on 11 Dec 2009

PETALING JAYA, 10 Dec 2009: Foreigners who enter the country to give talks require professional passes from the Immigration Department, the police confirmed today.

Event organisers are required to apply for a professional visit pass or Pas Ikhtisas before invited international guests could speak at events, the police added.

“Whether or not they are in the country for a day or a month, they require the pass from the Immigration Department. If they do not obtain the pass, they would be seen as breaking immigration rules,” said Inspector Kulalan from the Petaling Jaya Central District Office in a phone interview with The Nut Graph today.

“The pass is issued, for example, to singers or dancers who come to Malaysia [to perform]. It is also needed for professionals or expatriates who come to Malaysia to give talks,” added Kulalan.

Kulalan was responding to enquiries about the need for a professional visit pass for foreign speakers.

Kevin Tan
On 9 Dec 2009, academic Prof Kevin Tan from Singapore could not speak at a Merdeka Review-organised forum about the Perak constitutional crisis. Police had told the organisers they had to first secure permission from the Immigration Department for him to speak.

“[A day  before the event], when we contacted the police, they told us that Professor Kevin Tan is a foreigner, so we had to get an immigration pass for him before they could give us a police permit [for the forum],” Merdeka Review editor Chan Wei See said in a phone interview.

Chan said Tan was unable to be a panelist because it would have taken seven days for the Immigration Department to process the pass application.

As a result, Tan could only speak as an audience member from the floor at the Whither the Constitution? Lessons to be learnt from the Perak crisis forum, held in Petaling Jaya.

He was replaced on the panel by senior constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas. The other panelists were constitutional expert Prof Datuk Dr Saleem Shad Faruqi and ousted Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin.

Kulalan confirmed that passes for foreign speakers were required before a police permit could be issued. “If an application is made to us for a police permit, we need to make sure that they have the required passes.”

The Immigration Department’s professional pass unit also confirmed with The Nut Graph that visiting speakers at conferences required professional passes. However, the officer declined to be quoted without official sanction, which was not forthcoming as of tonight.

The panelists, sans Tan

Double standards

These rules, however, have not been applied across the board.

For example, none of the international speakers invited by the Bar Council or by Sime Darby or Khazanah Nasional have needed to apply nor did they apply for such a pass.

The most recent Khazanah Global Lecture in October 2009 featured Vodafone plc chairperson Sir John Bond from the United Kingdom, and was attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The Sime Darby Lecture Series has also hosted eminent foreigners such as Sri Lankan born Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Mohan Munasinghe and American Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Ragunath (File pic)
Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan also confirmed that several international speakers have presented at Bar Council events without needing a professional pass.

“Visiting lecturers or speakers do not require a professional pass to speak here,” he said, adding that he disagreed that there was such a legal requirement.

Senior lawyer Christopher Leong, who chaired the organising committee of (corrected) Lawasia Conference 2008, said they invited over 80 speakers, 40% of whom were foreign experts.

“We didn’t apply for a professional pass [for the foreign speakers], and we see no need to,” he said.

Leong was also involved in organising the Lincoln’s Inn Alumni Association annual dinner on 4 Dec 2009. “The (corrected) current Chief Justice of Singapore Datuk Seri Chan Sek Keong delivered the lecture and he didn’t have any professional pass,” Leong said.

He said such a requirement was “ridiculous”, noting that with the internet, one could obtain an expert’s opinion online without restriction.

“But if they come in person to say the same thing, then they have to obtain a permit?” he asked, saying that this was the first time he knew of any such requirement for foreign speakers. 

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6 Responses to “Double-standard policing”

  1. Tan says:

    Our law enforcement agencies are not neutral and independent in discharging their duties. They arbitrarily apply any bizarre rules and regulations as when the needs suit them. Our ex-PM had groomed many leaders through his leadership by example. Before that, we had flip-flop Ministers and now flip-flop enforcement agencies. What a shame!

  2. Pencinta Malaysia says:

    Hidup Malaysia!

  3. Ms. Piggy says:

    Lesson learnt: next time, don’t let the authorities know. They make it such a pain for people to do the right thing. I work for an organization that employs foreign volunteers and they give us a different set of rules every single time we make applications. Unfortunately, we have integrity and follow the excruciating rules (that change).

    It would help if the immigration dept had comprehensive guidelines online. I can’t understand why our IT is so backward in this way.

    Having said that, Leong is a little arrogant to claim that it’s ‘ridiculous’. It’s obvious he thinks Malaysians are numbskulls and he is a higher being. […]

    But it’s even more obvious getting information over the internet is not quite the same as having the person in the country. The rules are there for a reason. They may be flawed, but I don’t think it’s totally “ridiculous” to have to obtain a permit. You only have to imagine the worst case scenario for if this permit is scratched.

  4. kahseng says:

    This rule is not only ridiculous, it is not workable. The earlier businesses protest the better. Or FDI can go down the drain, to say the least.

    Factory trainers, computer consultant touting powerpoint presentations, churches, mosques, hungry ghost season operas, F1 racers, dragon boat guest speakers, foreign masters of ceremonies, hotel chef trainers, foreign bosses and diplomats on pep talks with local employees, lawyers representing foreign firms, scout masters from overseas, etc, insurance sale team motivators, will all have to shut up.

    The reason cited was not that whether the talk is public or private, but that the talks are work-related, therefore requiring professional permits!

    I’ve attended an NGO forum where the special branch officer threatened to jail and throw out the foreign speaker on a transportation issue. But the threatening officer turned nice whenever I turned my video camera to him and the speaker.

    The media can help to expose this senselessness.

  5. Phil says:

    Polis Raja Di Malaysia lah. Apparently they have the power to make the rules up as they go along.

  6. Antares says:

    A Humpty-Dumpty rogue regime tends to become top and bottom heavy. Those at the top get overly big-headed as their brains fill with [rubbish], whilst those at the bottom exercise [overzealousness] to gratify their pathological compulsion to feel important in the overall scheme of things. Let’s not waste our breath arguing with malignant nincompoops – let’s just resolve to flush them all down the chute of history at one go.

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