The Immigration Department has the right to bar those who ridicule the government from leaving the country, based on immigration regulation, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said.
He said the Immigration Department director-general has the power to stop a citizen from travelling overseas because overseas travel is "a privilege and not a right".
This despite freedom of movement being part of the United Nations Universal Human Rights Declaration 1948, which has been adopted by the Malaysian government.
As such, Nur Jazlan advised those who are vocal against the government to check with the Immigration Department if they are on a travel blacklist.
"There is a list (of those barred from travelling). In the case of Maria Chin, she should have checked with the Immigration Department to see if she is allowed to leave the country or not.
"Don't act hastily and then claim she is blocked," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.
Maria, who is Bersih chairperson, was last Sunday barred from boarding a plane to Taiwan, where she was to receive a human rights prize on behalf of electoral watchdog coalition.
She told Malaysiakini she travelled to the United States and Switzerland without problem earlier this year.
Earlier, an Immigration Department source told The Star those who ridicule the government can be barred from leaving Malaysia for three years.
Any Malaysian who does so while abroad will also be barred from travelling overseas for three years upon their return.
This is allegedly to "safeguard the country’s image".
“Anyone who runs down the government or ‘memburukkan kerajaan’ in any manner will be barred from going abroad.
“Only the Immigration Department director-general will be authorised to look into their appeals,” said the source.
Immigration Department director-general Sakib Kusmi confirmed the existence of such a provision, pointing out that owning a Malaysian passport was a privilege and not a right.
He said the government has the discretion to issue, defer or revoke a person’s passport.
Those who are barred from travelling overseas, however, can challenge this in court, said Sakib, as they have the right to do so.
Meanwhile, under the latest ruling, the source said Malaysians who are caught and deported for overstaying, committing a crime or working without a valid permit abroad will also be barred from leaving the country for two years.
And those who are negligent or lose their passports three times in five years will not be issued another one for a minimum of two years.
Your KiniGuide to overseas travel, and how one gets blacklisted