Malaysia deports British lawyer for Indians

Malaysia Saturday deported a British lawyer for a group of ethnic Indian activists who allege discrimination of their minority community in the Southeast Asian country, officials said.

British lawyer Imran Khan arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Friday but immigration authorities prevented him from entering the country and instead sent him back to London 12 hours later.

Immigration Department director general Alias Ahmad confirmed Khan was deported early Saturday as he was a "prohibited immigrant" but declined to comment further.

S. Jayathas, a coordinator for Hindraf, which lobbies for more rights for Malaysia's ethnic Indian minority, said Khan had planned to stay a week to meet community members who have faced difficulties, such as getting identity cards or being forced to convert to Islam.

"They deported him," Jayathas told AFP, adding that officials only told Khan they were following police instructions "from higher authorities" without being given any other reason.

"(His visit) will bring awareness that the Indian minority has been cheated for the past 54 years of their rights... They want to suppress that information," Jayathas said.

Khan and a colleague, who travelled with him but was allowed entry, are planning to file a fresh civil suit against the British government, alleging the discrimination against ethnic Indians started in colonial times when they were brought into what is now Malaysia as plantation labourers.

"We want to use this case to highlight the historical injustices... We have been refused our right to meet our lawyers," Hindraf advisor N. Ganesan told AFP.

A survey released Friday by independent research firm Merdeka Centre found that ethnic relations in Malaysia have deteriorated.

Of some 1,000 Malaysians questioned in May, 35 percent described ethnic unity as "sincere and friendly," down from 54 percent in 2006.

Hindraf shot to prominence in 2007 when it brought tens of thousands of ethnic Indians onto the streets demanding better education, job and business opportunities from the Malay-dominated government in an unprecedented protest.

Police put down the protest and arrested five of the leaders under a strict security law, detaining them without trial for almost one and a half years.

Ethnic Indians make up about eight percent of Malaysia's 28 million people, while Muslim Malays account for 60 percent and ethnic Chinese are 25 percent. A coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation has ruled the country since independence in 1957.

Last month, Malaysia deported a French lawyer representing a human rights group in an inquiry into alleged corruption linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The lawyer, William Bourdon, had been in the country to give talks on an investigation into corruption claims on the sale of two Scorpene submarines while Najib was defence minister. The government has denied the allegations.


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