Australia and Malaysia row over politician's deportation
February 17, 2013 00:00
Sydney - Australia said Sunday it would not back down in a row with Malaysia over a politician's detention and deportation on arrival in Kuala Lumpur airport.
"We'll continue to pursue this issue with the Malaysian government," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
Senator Nick Xenophon, an outspoken critic of Malaysia's human rights record, had planned to meet opposition figures at the unofficial start of an election campaign.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he had spoken to his Malaysian counterpart to register "disappointment" at Saturday's deportation.
"I said I thought no ill could come of having an Australian senator there to observe the elections," Carr said.
"I'm now on a watch list," Xenophon he said. "I don't know how many years or decades it will be before I'm allowed to set foot on Malaysian soil." Xenophon arrived ahead of other members of parliament who had lined up meetings with Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammed Nazri as well as Anwar Ibrahim and other opposition figures.
The visit has been cancelled.
Malaysia's immigration chief said Xenophon was blacklisted for having made slanderous comments tarnishing the country's image.
Gillard was urged to take a stand by Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister and foreign minister.
"Detaining any member of an Australian parliament, in the way in which Senator Xenophon appears to have been detained, is just unacceptable," he said. "We're robust about our democracy and therefore we should be robust in our response to our friends in Kuala Lumpur." Australia last year sealed a free trade deal with Malaysia. Trade was worth 16 billion US dollars in 2011, a 60-per-cent increase on 2010.
More than 250,000 Malaysians have attended universities in Australia, with around 20,000 currently enrolled. More than 500,000 Australians visited Malaysia last year, mostly on holiday.//DPA