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Ban on Xenophon derails M'sian democracy

Just when we thought Malaysia is on its way to becoming the 'world's best democracy' something like this had to happen.

The deportation of Australian Senator Nick Xenophon from Malaysia has derailed the country's democracy train.

What has he done to become a security threat to the country?

Many see his ban as a defamation of his character and an act of political victimisation for his negative report on what he has seen in Malaysia during Bersih 3.0 and support for electoral reforms.

Senator Xenophon has proven he is a highly respected and valued politician among Australian voters for his independent streak and is just what Malaysia needs.

Foreign editor of The Australian newpaper Greg Sheridan's criticism of the senator is unfortunate and misplaced and his comments reflect a shallow understanding of what is happening in Malaysia today.

Malaysia is hardly news in Australia and Sheridan's comments aren't fair or accurate and he is no stranger to controversy himself.

In today's Crikey, an independent Australian media known for its poignant reporting, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser and his biographer Margaret Simons, call Sheridan a 'barracker for political memories' and "in his hyperbole, prejudice and partiality, Greg Sheridan shows himself to be not so much a commentator as a barracker..."

And reading his comments in the Bernama report only adds substance to the above criticism because ironically Sheridan was taken to task last year by ABC Foreign Correspondent reporter Eric Campbell for his suggestion that "many in the ABC support totalitarianism..."

If Sheridan were such an advocate for democracy does he suffer from a blind spot when commenting on the Malaysian scenario?

He says, "Its (Malaysia's) elections are certainly not perfect, but they are better than in most parts of the world," but fails to understand that to most Malaysians this 'not perfect' situation is crucial to Malaysia's electoral integrity.

It will decide the next government after GE13.

Will Sheridan accept the same 'not perfect' situation if it were Australia or is it merely his condescending attitude that foreign countries like Malaysia are expected to have a lower grade of democracy than his own country's?

I can't believe he can compare Malaysia with Vietnam and Cambodia which both have long histories of totalitarian rule and the latter was the place of the infamous 'killing fields.'

Comparing chalk with cheese is no comparison.

His 'not as bad as the others' exoneration of Malaysia's governance is insulting to the aspirations of millions of Malaysians many of whom took to the streets and stadiums to demand democratic reform.

And to show how ignorant Sheridan really is, he goes on to say "Indeed, its very openness allows people such as Xenophon to grandstand there."

Grandstand? Where have you been Greg?

Senator Xenophon has just been denied entry into Malaysia and deported home and he is ignored in the mainstream media in Malaysia or are you still living in the past or talking from old notes?

Or is it a case of the Aussie tall poppy syndrome?

To suggest "on any measure (Malaysia) is one of the most democratic and freewheeling nations in South-East Asia..." is to live in a Fool's Paradise and since Sheridan does not live in Malaysia he obviously dreams of one.

No wonder Bernama was quick to publish Sheridan's manna from heaven.

And why is it "stupid and impractical" for Australia to send electoral observers to Malaysia who don't have to carry guns and risk being killed like so many young Australians in Afghanistan?

Senator Xenophon with several of his parliamentary colleagues were about to prove it can be done.

As one who thought highly of some of Sheridan's writings in the past, I am naturally disappointed that Sheridan seems so out of touch with what is taking place in Malaysia today.

He sounded supercilious in his tone toward Xenophon, and one has to wonder what purpose his dismissive comments serve or will help Malaysia's journey toward fair elections and democracy, let alone the world's best, except add to the government's spin and demonisation of Xenophon.

The Australian government is right in asking for a 'please explain' from Malaysia.

Australia stood by Malaysia and defended its borders from hostile Indonesian incursions into the country during the days of 'Konfrontasi' and is like a second home to many Malaysians including former and present ministers in the Malaysian government.

Australia is a friend of Malaysia and friends know how to give and take.

If we want anyone to 'interfere' our first choice would be Australia but let us not forget that Senator Xenophon did not 'interfere' by intruding on his own initiative but was invited by the country's legitimate Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, during the Bersih incident when international observers were tear-gassed.

The observers were pro-democracy rather than pro-opposition and I wonder what Sheridan would have written had he been present?

The Malaysian police were not as bad as the Egyptian police during the Arab Spring?

I doubt any country would want to interfere in Malaysia's affairs but the world wants to see free and fair elections everywhere, especially in an aspiring 'world's best democracy.'

Australia was elected into the Security Council and it is hypocritical of anyone to presume the country has no moral obligation to promote free and fair elections in neighbouring countries when Australia has been instrumental in enforcing law and order and helping countries like East Timor and the Solomon Islands rebuild.

I find it incredible that anyone can get into trouble for wanting a country to have free and fair elections in a constitutional democracy.

I urge the government to reverse the ban on Senator Xenophon and put in place urgent reforms in the electoral system so that every Malaysian will know they are voting in a legitimate government and Senator Xenophon can visit Malaysia and enjoy its many tourist attractions.


STEVE OH is a singer and composer and also author of the book 'Tiger King of the Golden Jungle'.