As Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak scrambles to help 11 Malaysians barred from leaving North Korea, one Malaysian has urged Putrajaya to review as well travel restrictions the country has imposed on its own citizens.
Cartoonist Zunar said that while Najib has criticised North Korea for using Malaysians as “hostages” and thus breaching international laws and diplomatic norms, the prime minister should also be looking at his own backyard.
“Najib has criticised North Korea for barring Malaysians from leaving their country, which is a violation of international laws.
“But what about Malaysians, like me, who are barred from leaving our own country? Is this not a violation of international laws?” Zunar told Malaysiakini.
Zunar, the nom de plume of Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, was barred from leaving the country when he went to board a flight to Singapore last October.
He said it would be hypocritical of Najib to show concern for Malaysians, who are now trapped in North Korea, while imposing travel restrictions on his own fellow citizens.
“It’s not that I don’t sympathise with Malaysians stranded in North Korea. I’m just disgusted with Najib’s hypocrisy,” Zunar said.
According to various news reports, North Korea has barred 11 Malaysians from leaving the country. They include diplomats, their family members and two individuals who work for the United Nation’s World Food Programme.
Putrajaya followed this up with a tit-for-tat response by barring North Korean diplomats from leaving the country.
Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, who was once a victim of Putrajaya’s travel restrictions, said both Malaysia and North Korea should not impose travel restrictions against each other.
“These people are caught in a diplomatic squabble and they should be allowed to travel home. No one is allowed to hold them ‘hostage’ until the diplomatic stand-off is resolved,” Maria told Malaysiakini.
Both North Korea and Malaysia, she added, are likely to have violated Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, an international treaty that defines the framework for diplomatic relations.