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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Who is Nick Zenophon, biased, unwelcome,stupid and impractical?

Biased and unwelcome

Australian senator Nick Xenophon has been accused of tarnishing Malaysia’s image by questioning our electoral process and smearing the palm oil industry.

A LOT of heat is being generated both here and in Australia following the Govern-ment’s decision to deport independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon who arrived at the LCCT in Sepang on Saturday.

He was detained as an undesirable person and deported on the first available flight back the next day.

There is considerable support as well as condemnation for Xenophon’s deportation, with many individuals and NGOs questioning his independence and accusing him of coming here to interfere in our election system.

Those who condemn the deportation say it is authoritarian and reflects the Government’s paranoia of foreign observers.

Just who is Xenophon and what is the Australian’s relationship with Malaysia?

The outspoken senator is a personal friend of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and one of his many sympathisers in Australia.

He often speaks up on various Malaysian issues and has travelled here several times, the last in April, at Anwar’s invitation to ostensibly study the polling system.

But his critics charged that he is heavily involved in supporting the Opposition and had even participated in the Bersih 3.0 rally in April last year that ended in violence.

Xenophon’s latest trip here was as part of a four-member Australian delegation after the Australian government rejected Anwar’s request for independent observers for the upcoming general election.

Xenophon was deported, said our immigration authorities, because he had tarnished the image of the country. He had been classified as a “prohibited immigrant”.

The fact is immigration had blacklisted Xenophon because he had attended the Bersih protest last year and for allegedly making “baseless” allegations about Malaysia.

“He can’t pretend to be an independent observer as he is very biased,” said political analyst Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

“It does not make sense trying to be an independent observer when he is not. He is a very partial observer and was ready to denounce our electoral process,” Dr Chandra said.

Xenophon had given a press conference in Parliament last year in which he lambasted the Government’s “electoral shortcomings”.

Among the issues he raised was the short campaign period.

He also vocally objected to the fact that rural constituencies had a smaller number of voters compared with urban ones which had many more.

He compared Malaysia’s electoral system, which he faulted, with other countries including Australia’s which he painted favourably.

But it is through his virulent anti-palm oil campaign that Xenophon first came to the attention of our Government.

As Australia’s Green Party senator, Xenophon strongly supported and promoted legislation requiring labelling of palm oil in food products.

Labelling has threatened big plantations and thousands of smallholders equally.

Xenophon promoted the “Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil Bill” which was proposed by environmental NGOs and supported by Xenophon because oil palm plantations, it was said, contributed to deforestation and threatened the orang utan.

The palm oil industry earned the country RM80bil in 2012 and provided hundreds of thousands of Malaysians employment and income.

But Xenophon couldn’t care less.

Eventually the Bill was defeated by an extensive information campaign mounted by Malaysia.

Lately, Xenophon has emerged again on the Malaysian political landscape as a human rights advocate who is concerned with our election laws and practices.

He has allied himself with Anwar and with the Opposition who now decry the fact that he had been deported rather unceremoniously by an exasperated government that at one time had tolerated him and allowed Xenophon free access.

The reality is that many of these battles are actually trade wars waged in various shapes and forms and which are heavily financed by our economic rivals.

The economic stakes are indeed high.

In his own Australia, Xenophon is viewed as a maverick and attention grabber who is into self-promotion.

Australian commentator Greg Sheridan, writing in The Australian, has this to say about Xenophon – he only campaigns for one side of Malaysian politics, the Opposition.

Sheridan also wrote it was “stupid and impractical” for Australia to send election monitors, citing Vietnam and Cambodia, and Malaysia “on any measure is one of the most democratic and freewheeling nations in South-East Asia”.

Indeed, Xenophon has come here on a number of occasions, taken advantage of our openness and had even engaged in grandstanding – not just in Parliament but also on the streets.

He has lost our goodwill and made himself persona non grata.


Related Stories:
Xenophon's 'foolish' episode slammed
Guan Eng: Deportation disgraceful and unacceptable
Xenophon not on list of Aussie delegation 

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