A vocal minority within Malaysia feels that Xenophon’s deportation was an abuse of power, but the fact is that had Xenophon intended to observe the elections, Malaysian law requires him to formerly submit an observer application to do so. The nation’s Electoral Commission has confirmed that they have not received any application from any international observer. Additionally, representatives of de-facto law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz confirmed that Xenophon was in fact not included in the bipartisan delegation set to meet government officials, as Xenophon had claimed in his statements to the Australian press. Xenophon’s status as an independent observer in foreign media should not be reported as fact; local analysts have acknowledged his long-standing support and affiliations with members of Malaysia’s opposition – such affiliations would negate the legitimacy of an election observer anywhere in the world.
In the hot-tempered run-up to Malaysia’s upcoming general elections, figures from all sides of the political spectrum have questioned the opposition’s links to foreign-funders in Washington, reinforcing popular suspicion against foreign figures like Xenophon. Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat has bore strong criticism for accepting funds and training from US Government-linked foundations such as the International Republican Institute (IRI), chaired by US Senator John McCain. Bangkok-based analyst Tony Cartaucci writes, “Senator Xenophon’s visit to Malaysia was not one of ‘monitoring,’ but of checking up on a group of clearly compromised, openly foreign-funded, subversive elements operating behind the guise of disingenuous principles – making the Malaysian government’s claims that Xenophon constitutes a security risk absolutely justified.” Bersih coalition leader Ambiga Sreenevasan also conceded that her organization accepts funds from US Government-linked foundations. Malaysian authorities are rightfully concerned that these recipients of foreign capital have based their programs around casting doubt on the nation’s Electoral Commission, and thus, the very legitimacy of the ruling party and the democratic process.
The Electoral Commission has provided consistent and sound refutations to the allegations of electoral discrepancies made against them by several US-funded NGOs. Malaysia’s parliamentary select committee agreed upon implementing recommended electoral reforms addressed by civil society groups and has since passed 18 amendments to the electoral roll. One could deduct that Xenophon’s participation in the Bersih street rally, and his concerns regarding issues pertaining to electoral reforms translate into an attempt to falsely downplay the validity of the Electoral Commission. The United Nations has confirmed that Malaysia is completely in-line with international norms and electoral standards, and commentator Greg Sheridan is quite right to state that Malaysia is “one of the most democratic and freewheeling nations in Southeast Asia. Its elections are certainly not perfect, but they are better than in most parts of the world. Indeed, its very openness allows people such as Xenophon to grandstand there.”