Putrajaya must explain defiance of court order to stay Myanmar deportations

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Court extends order against deportation of remaining Myanmar refugees.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today extended the order against the deportation of the remaining Myanmar refugees in Malaysia.

This followed yesterday’s move by the Immigration Department to deport 1,086 Myanmar asylum seekers back to their country of origin.

Judge Mariana Yahya today allowed the extension of the order until March 9, which has been set for a decision on a related legal bid to quash the Malaysian government’s decision to deport the Myanmar nationals.

The order was issued against the home minister and two others during open court proceedings this morning. The other two respondents are the Immigration director-general and the government.

NGOs, Amnesty International and Asylum Access are the applicants in the judicial review leave application set for a decision on March 9.

In a press statement yesterday, Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said a total 1,086 Myanmar national illegal immigrants detained at immigration depots nationwide since last year were deported via the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base in Lumut.

The repatriation programme was implemented by his department in collaboration with the Malaysian Armed Forces, especially the RMN, the National Task Force and the Myanmar Embassy.

The 1,086 refugees were picked up by three Myanmar navy ships.

The move went against an earlier interim court order against any such deportation, pending disposal of the main judicial review application.

The Bar Council’s M Ramachevam labelled the move by the immigration authorities as possibly amounting to contempt of court.

At a virtual press conference later, Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv said the government must explain why it defied a court order to put off the deportation Myanmar nationals back to their home country.

She said Putrajaya must also clarify the status of the deportees and whether any refugees were included in the group.

“These dangerous deportations have not been properly scrutinised and put individuals at grave risk.

“The government must stop trying to railroad these deportations without accountability and the government must immediately grant the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) access to the group,” she said.

She said there are concerns over the fate of those who are en route home and the 114 Myanmar detainees awaiting deportation in Malaysia.

Katrina said that UNHCR must be given immediate access to the detention facilities to prevent human rights violations from recurring.

The UNHCR had earlier urged Malaysia not to proceed with the deportation, while other groups warned that the deportation could legitimise the military junta now in power and expose Rohingya and other ethnic minorities to persecution.

In a joint statement, other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also urged the judiciary to ensure that the Immigration Department and the home ministry are held responsible for defying a court order and deporting 1,086 Myanmar nationals.

They said it was of utmost importance that the court upheld justice and held the authorities responsible for their actions which seemed to be in defiance of court orders.

“Going against the orders of the High Court is an action that is in contempt of court and an offence under Article 126 of the Federal Constitution. Defiance of court orders must be taken seriously to ensure justice and legal consistency across all sectors, not just in human rights.

“We urge the court and judiciary to take the necessary measures since this issue involves the safety of vulnerable communities as well as the integrity of the judiciary,” said the statement, signed by 37 groups and 10 individuals.

They also reminded the judiciary that it is under public scrutiny globally, following the contempt of court decision involving news portal Malaysiakini last week.

Meanwhile, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) raised an objection against the application for judicial review by the two NGOs to challenge the Malaysian Government’s decision to repatriate 1,200 Myanmar refugees to their country of origin.

Senior Federal Counsel (SFC) Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, said that he had informed the court that the objection was made on the grounds that Section 59A of the Immigration Act 1959 stipulates that there shall be no judicial review of any act or decision except in regards to non-compliance with any procedural requirement of the law.

“The applicants (NGOs) are also not the parties affected by the decision of the respondent (the Malaysian Government) to send the Myanmar nationals back to their country of origin,” he said.