KUALA LUMPUR – A leading Malaysian rights activist who faces sedition charges at home has said he was denied a visa to enter Australia, raising suggestions Canberra had buckled to pressure from Kuala Lumpur.
Haris Ibrahim, a strident campaigner against the Malaysian government, now headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, said he was seeking a meeting with Australian officials for clarification.
Haris was charged with sedition after he suggested, shortly after the long-ruling coalition government retained power in divisive May 5 elections, that Malaysians reject the polls’ outcome.
Najib’s government lost the popular vote but retained power thanks to a system that gives more weight in parliament to rural areas where it is strong.
An Australian High Commission official in Kuala Lumpur said he had no information on Haris’s case.
The political journal Independent Australia said the move indicates a possible “disturbing” shift on human rights and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia by the new government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.