Malaysia remains steadfast in its stand not to accede to India’s request to deport controversial preacher Zakir Naik, said Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
He said the government’s reason for not deporting the preacher was the same as mentioned before – that it was unsure if Zakir would be afforded a fair trial in India.
However, he said Putrajaya would send an official letter to New Delhi soon to state its reasons in a more legal and diplomatic way.
Saifuddin said he would discuss the contents of the letter with Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.
“In actual fact, we have informed India of our stand but in my meeting with India’s foreign minister last week, he had politely raised the issue and asked us to send a letter as our official reply.
“He wanted us to give specific reasons for our refusal. We need to refer to the A-G on this and get the cabinet’s approval.
“However, our stand remains the same. For this official letter, there is a proper way and manner to dictate it,” he said after an event in Bangsar last night.
Saifuddin added Putrajaya will work swiftly in complying with Indian’s request for an official letter.
Saifuddin said the decision was made without any pressure from any foreign country.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had previously said Malaysia was reluctant to send Zakir back to India as it was likely the preacher would not face a fair trial there.
Dr Mahathir had also said Zakir faced security risks if he was sent to India.
On Sept 17, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad reportedly claimed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not made any request to Malaysia to return Zakir Naik.
The Prime Minister said the controversial speaker was among matters discussed with his counterpart during a bilateral meeting outside the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia earlier that month.
“I met Modi (and) he didn’t tell me he wanted this guy (Zakir),” Mahathir said.
The Mumbai-born preacher faces terrorism-related and money-laundering charges in India.
The Malaysian permanent residency holder is also facing police investigations here for his controversial speeches aimed at non-Muslims communities.
He courted controversy by suggesting that Hindus in Malaysia were more loyal to Modi than to Dr Mahathir.
He also said that Chinese in Malaysia were guests who should be asked to leave before he is asked to.
Saifuddin also said Malaysia’s stand on Zakir should not be politicised.
He said Zakir was not the only individual wanted by other governments to be extradited.
“India is not the only country that has made a request to us to deport its citizens. And, Zakir is not the only one who we have rejected to deport.
“There are others, too, but that has not become an issue like this.”