Monday, 18 February 2013

So the deported Senator Xenophon

has arrived back in Australia claiming all sorts of political intrigue - and surprise at his detention and subsequent deportation from Malaysia.
I am much less surprised and I suspect that Senator Xenophon is also much less surprised than he claims to be. He may even have been expecting what happened to happen.
For those of you who are unaware of what happened let me explain. There is an independent Senator (i.e. not a member of a major party) in our Federal Parliament by the name of Nick Xenophon. He runs on a No Pokies (gambling) platform. He is well known and quite popular. He is well known because he is very good at getting his name in the media through a variety of stunts. 
I by no means always agree with him or his methods but he has done some good work and he has certainly raised the profile of the problem gambling issue and some other equally thorny social issues.
One of those issues is "democracy" and "fair elections".
Senator Xenophon has been to Malaysia before - to support the Opposition. He has also been an outspoken critic of the way Malaysia conducts elections.
I have no doubt that there is very real cause for concern about the way Malaysia conducts elections. Few people would doubt that the government there is determined to suppress any opposition and that it will do it in whatever way they consider best. Malaysian culture is also such that it is unwise for outsiders to openly criticise this - or the way elections are conducted in that country. 
Senator Xenophon was travelling on a personal passport. He was almost certainly aware that he was on a "watch list" and that he was likely to be detained and deported. Perhaps he still believed that it was a way of raising the issue of electoral corruption in Malaysia. 
That seems rather naive to me. The Malaysian media is also largely controlled by the government. It is a brave person who criticises the government in the media.  Any open opposition is normally shut down very quickly. The Malaysian government now has the perfect tool against the opposition. Here is a foreigner coming in and interfering with the internal affairs of the country. In hugely nationalistic Malaysia that is not going to go down well - and they will make much of it.
Our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister were treading very carefully last night. They expressed "concern" and "surprise" but they did not condemn the action (which must have been requested and condoned at the highest level). If anything they supported the action of the Malaysians. 
That does not surprise me either. We have an, at best, uneasy relationship with Asia. The government is still trying to get its "Malaysian solution" with respect to asylum seekers through parliament. It does not want to upset Malaysia (although the so-called solution is unequally weighted in Malaysia's favour). There are also upcoming trade and other agreements. Malaysia does not welcome the presence of Australia in regional affairs at the best of times. 
Canberra is saying that the Senator's actions will make no difference to the relationship. That is nonsense. We will pay dearly for it - and so will Malaysian democracy.
Our own so-called democracy is not much better.

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