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KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — Two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have obtained leave to proceed with a judicial review to challenge the Malaysian government’s decision to repatriate 1,200 Myanmar refugees.
This follows the decision by High Court judge Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya in dismissing the Attorney General’s Chambers’s (AGC) objection against the application for leave for judicial review by the two NGOs, Asylum Access Berhad and Aimal Sdn Bhd.
Lawyer Lim Wei Jet, who was representing the two NGOs, when contacted said the court rejected the AGC’s argument that both NGOs lacked locus standi to file the judicial review application.
“It (the court) held that NGOs play an important role in today’s society to vindicate the rights of the vulnerable. The court acknowledged that we live today in a much more liberal society where concepts of accountability and transparency are part and parcel of our lives,” the lawyer said.
Lim said the court also rejected the AGC’s argument that decisions of the respondents are immune from judicial review (except on procedural non-compliance) because of the ouster clause in Section 59A of the Immigration Act.
The respondents in the application were the Immigration director-general, the Home Minister and the Malaysian government.
The provision states that the decisions of the Immigration director-general or Home Minister are only subject to judicial review if they involve the issue of procedural compliance.
“The court ruled that the judicial review application is not frivolous and vexatious, and thus needs to be subjected to a full hearing,” the lawyer said, adding that the court has fixed March 23 for the next case management.
Meanwhile, the lawyer said the court also granted a stay against the Immigration director-general and the Home Minister from deporting the remaining 114 Myanmar nationals until the disposal of the entire judicial review.
Justice Mariana delivered her decision today through online proceedings, and she was joined by Senior Federal Counsel S. Narkunavathy, Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, Mohd Sabri Othman and M. Kogilambigai while the lawyers representing the applicants were Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Datuk Dr Gurdial Singh, New Sin Yew and Gokul Radhakrishnan.
On February 22, the two NGOs filed a judicial review for an order to overturn the government’s decision to deport the refugees, including children, being held in the country’s immigration detention centres. They were scheduled to be sent back onboard Myanmar navy ships.
In their application, they claimed that if the refugees were sent back to Myanmar, their lives would be at risk.
In a press statement on February 23, Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said that a total of 1,086 Myanmar national illegal immigrants detained at immigration depots nationwide since last year were deported via the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) base in Lumut.
The repatriation programme was implemented by his department in collaboration with the Malaysian Armed Forces, especially the RMN, the National Task Force and the Myanmar Embassy. — Bernama