This is the basic question that has yet to be answered, said lawyer Syahredzan Johan.
He was commenting on Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed's remarks yesterday that travel bans would not be imposed on government critics, but only on those who had allegedly violated the federal constitution.
As pointed out by many, including Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru, the right to travel abroad is a constitutional right guaranteed under Article 5(1) of the federal constitution, he said.
This, he added, is the interpretation of the law by the Apex Court in the case of Lee Kwan Woh v PP.
"The argument that the issuance of a passport is a 'privilege', and not a right is an obsolete interpretation based on a precedent - specifically the case of Goverment of Malaysia v Loh Wai Kong - which has been held to be 'worthless as precedent' in the said Lee Kwan Woh v PP.
"Thus, in order to restrict this fundamental right, it must at the very least be pursuant to a specific law," Syahredzan explained.
There is no law as such that allows the Immigration director-general to restrict the travel of a citizen with a valid passport, he said, even on the bases that they have committed offence against the federal constitution.
'Offence not yet proven'
Besides, he said, barring someone from travelling abroad when it has not been proven in court that they had committed an offence against the federal constitution is contrary to the principles of natural justice.
"The state would in essence be punishing a person before the person has a chance to defend himself or herself in court," he said.
The Star on Wednesday reported the Immigration Department had made an internal ruling to bar those who criticised the government from travelling abroad.
Yesterday, Nur Jazlan clarified the travel ban is only against those who had allegedly violated the federal constitution.
“This includes those who are a threat to national security or have committed acts that violate the federal constitution - these are the legal basis that will get them barred from travelling overseas,” he was quoted saying.