A Malaysian Indian rights activist living in self-imposed exile after organising anti-discrimination protests in his home country denounced the government on Friday for allegedly revoking his passport.
Ponnusamy Waytha Moorthy, who has been in London since he fled the country last December, said he has sought asylum in Britain after learning that Kuala Lumpur had cancelled his passport.
“Technically, I am now without a state and am asking Britain for asylum,” the chairman of rights group Hindraf told AFP in a phone interview. “This is a very cowardly act by the Malaysian government against me in order to undermine me, but it really undermines their credibility locally and internationally.”
Waytha Moorthy said immigration officers at Gatwick airport told him that Kuala Lumpur had revoked his passport when he last entered Britain.
“The revocation of my passport is a last desperate attempt by the government in crippling my international lobby for the cause of Malaysian Indians and this unwarranted act has given me strength to continue the fight,” he said from London.
Malaysian immigration officials told AFP they were unaware of the passport cancellation and said Waytha Moorthy should return home to check the status of his travel document.
But Waytha Moorthy said Kuala Lumpur intended to force Britian to deport him so he could be arrested under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
Waytha Moorthy, along with his brother P. Uthayakumar and four other Hindraf leaders, angered the government in November by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination against minority ethnic Indians in the Malay-majority country.
Waytha Moorthy fled Malaysia in December to lobby the international community for support, while the other five were detained under the ISA.
A Malaysian court on Wednesday refused to release the five.
Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific advocacy director T. Kumar called on Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to give a “full explanation on the rationale for the cancellation.”
“This is the first time I have heard of a political activist’s passport being revoked by his own country’s government,” he told AFP.
Ethnic Indians make up less than eight percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people.