INDEPENDENT senator Nick Xenophon has been refused entry to Malaysia and now expects to be deported.
Senator Xenophon, who has raised serious concerns about the probity of the upcoming Malaysian elections, flew to Kuala Lumpur this morning but was stopped by immigration officials.
“I am effectively a prisoner here. I’m being held in an area with all these holding cells which are full of women. They have basically told me I am an enemy of the state,” he told the Adelaide Sunday Mail.
“They are trying to get me on the next plane out of here and back home.”
A spokesman for his office said he had been informed he would be deported under the country’s security legislation.
Senator Xenophon planned to stay in Malaysia until Tuesday, meeting election commission officials and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
He has been highly critical of preparations for the election to be held later this year. In particular, he’s pointed to serious concerns about the integrity of the country’s election rolls.
Senator Xenophon said today that Malaysian immigration officials told him there was a technical glitch with his passport and then escorted to an area of holding cells, although he was not put in a cell.
“I was eventually told apologetically by immigration officials that I am on a watchlist, that there are orders from above in terms of security concerns and I have to be deported on the next flight out of here,” he told Sky News.
Senator Xenophon said he had visited Malaysia previously at the invitation of Mr Ibrahim, participating in the elections observer group last year.
“We found there are some serious systemic concerns about the Malaysian elections that are coming up. They are due to be called any day,” he said.
Senator Xenophon said he was participating in a delegation with other Australian MPs including Liberal Mal Washer, Nationals senator John Williams and ALP MP Steve Georganas, who were due to arrive in the next 24-36 hours.
He said the delegation had meetings arranged with the Malaysian government minister responsible for the election process as well as with Mr Ibrahim.
“It seems I won’t be doing any of that because I am deemed to be a security risk,” he said.
Senator Xenophon admitted he had been and remained critical of Malaysia’s human rights record.
He said he had he had talked with Australia’s High Commissioner Miles Cooper, who planned to visit him later today.
“Malaysia and Australia are great friends. The Australian government is willing to do a people swap deal with the Malaysians, which must involve a lot of trust on their part,” he said.
“It seems that a member of the Australian parliament is now not allowed into Malaysia because I am a supposed security risk. I just wanted to arrive here quietly and do our work. I didn’t ask to be deported, believe me.”