KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will not impose visa requirements on Middle Eastern nationals despite the looming Islamic State terrorism threat.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the Cabinet had rejected the proposal by the National Security Council (NSC) to impose visas on Middle Eastern visitors.
“We do acknowledge that the IS threat is a serious matter, but I think the issue here is not about visa requirements but the lack of strong enforcement.
“We need to tighten screenings at all entry points into the country,” he told a press conference here yesterday.
NSC secretary Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad recently called on the Government to consider imposing visa requirements for Middle Eastern nationals in view of the IS threat.
“If we are to accept NSC’s suggestion, it means we have to review the entry requirements for all countries, not just the Middle East,” said Mohamed Nazri.
He added that the IS threat was not only targeted at Malaysia but many other countries as well, including neighbours Indonesia and Thailand.
“And you can’t really say that these potential terrorists will come in only through the Middle East.
“They could come in from any country. We just have to be more vigilant by strengthening our screening process and intelligence databases,” he said.
Malaysia also cannot make unilateral decisions on imposing visas, as reviews of visa requirements have always been a bilateral process.
“Our neighbouring countries have yet to call for such drastic measures although they face similar threats, so I see no reason for Malaysia to do so,” said Mohamed Nazri.
The senior minister said Malaysia’s strong diplomatic ties with Middle Eastern countries could be affected if the visa requirement was introduced.
“All these countries are also members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
“It is not our intention to cause damage to our diplomatic relations,” he added.
Mohamed Nazri also dispelled rumours of foreign tourists cancelling their visits to Malaysia following the recent explosion at an entertainment outlet in Puchong.
“Places like Thailand and France were also similarly affected, but their tourist numbers did not suffer a significant drop.
“As I know it, tourists are very steadfast in their plans. Therefore, an act of violence will not deter them as they do not want to be seen as bowing to terrorists out of fear,” he said.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the ministry would find other alternative and effective ways to screen potential terrorist suspects before they entered the country.