By Terry Xu
Investigative reporter Clare Rewcastle Brown was briefly detained by immigration authorities in Singapore, according to Sarawak Report, the Malaysian news site which she founded.
In a Facebook post that highlighted Rewcastle-Brown’s detention, the Sarawak Report wrote, ‘Clare was briefly detained in Singapore at 1AM last night after her book launch. Turns out ‘someone’ put her on the blacklist in 2016 but the Singapore authorities were baffled about why she had been placed on the list. After clarifying her involvement in the #1MDB expose they shook her hand and she was free to go. They suggested she raise the problem of the ‘mystery blacklisting’ with the authorities.’
Rewcastle-Brown was once wanted by the Malaysian Government. A warrant for her arrest was issued in Aug 2015 for allegedly spreading falsehoods and committing an act “detrimental to parliamentary democracy” with her expose on the 1MDB corruption scandal. She was accused of eroding trust in the previous UMNO led government.
The arrest warrant was revoked after the new Malaysian government took power after 9 May.
According to media reports, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that she underwent a “short interview” as part of the immigration clearance process and said its records show that she left Singapore 16 minutes later.
ICA did not address her claim of being on a blacklist in its response to media queries, even though it did not place any restriction of entry or travel in its records.
In September last year, I wrote about my own experience being prevented from leaving Singapore by the ICA because of an ongoing investigation involving an illegal assembly offence. It should be noted that the restriction imposed on me was an illegal one as the police had no powers to restrict travel in this manner other than to impound my passport. The ICA had to check back with the police and inform the officer in charge that I was detained at the checkpoint.
The Ministry of Home Affairs needs to explain why Rewcastle-Brown is on the immigration blacklist. In the case of social worker Jolovan Wham being stopped at the Malaysian Customs, one might say it is because he has been charged in court. But this is not the case for Rewcastle-Brown.
It is also worthwhile to note that Rewcastle-Brown had to skip a conference in Singapore in Nov 2015. This was after she received several warnings from Malaysian sources that the Malaysian authorities were aware of her arrival and had arranged for her arrest. She was also warned that a Malaysian military jet had detoured to Seletar Airport to wait for her.
This raises the question of whether the Singapore authorities collaborated with the previous Malaysian government under Najib for the arrest of Rewcastle-Brown. Was she blacklisted by the Singapore immigration because of this? Did the Singapore government forget to remove her from the list after the Pakatan Harapan victory in May? Why did Singapore cooperate with Malaysia, given that the arrest warrant was politically motivated?
The Ministry of Home Affairs has to give an answer given how this incident has shown restrictions on travel can be brought about by foreign political intervention.