Nick Xenophon in Malaysia.
AN AUSTRALIAN senator detained and ordered to be deported by Malaysia as a ''security risk'' has acted as an emissary for Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, carrying a letter warning of infringements on democracy to the federal government.
On Saturday the South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, was detained after being told at Kuala Lumpur airport that there was a technical glitch with his passport and then escorted to an area of holding cells.
Senator Xenophon's detention has caused the cancellation of a visit to Malaysia by a delegation of Australian MPs from all major parties.
Illustration: Matt Golding. Photo: Matt Golding
Speaking by phone from the airport, Senator Xenophon, an independent, described his detention as ''bizarre''.
''They have told me I am a security risk,'' he said.
In an separate interview with Sky News, he said: ''I was eventually told apologetically by immigration officials that I am on a watchlist, that there are orders from above in terms of security concerns and I have to be deported on the next flight out of here.''
Only hours before Senator Xenophon's arrest, Mr Anwar lashed out at Foreign Minister Bob Carr in an interview with Fairfax Media, revealing he asked in the letter for Australia to speak out about Malaysia's rigged political system.
Mr Anwar said his warnings of Malaysia's rigged political system had fallen on deaf ears.
Mr Anwar, who heads a three-party opposition alliance, said Senator Carr was ''ill-advised or clearly lacks an understanding'' of what is happening in Malaysia when he refused to act on the letter sent late last year asking for Australia's help.
Senator Carr on Saturday raised Australia's concerns with the Malaysian government about Senator Xenophon's detention.
''Senator Xenophon's detention is a surprising and disappointing act from a country with which Australia routinely maintains strong diplomatic relations,'' Senator Carr said.
Senator Carr said Australia's high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, who had made direct contact with Senator Xenophon, was ''seeking an explanation from Malaysian authorities regarding the reasons for this detention''.
He said preliminary reports indicated Senator Xenophon had been held under Malaysia's national security laws.
Senator Xenophon was expected to leave Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Melbourne in the early hours of Sunday morning.
In a statement issued after Senator Xenophon's arrest, Mr Anwar condemned the Malaysian government's accusations against Senator Xenophon. ''Prime Minister Najib Razak has no right to treat visitors as enemies of the state merely because they are critical of his UMNO-led administration,'' he said.
''This act of detention and proposed deportation for partisan political reasons is therefore a gross abuse of power.''
Senator Xenophon was in Malaysia leading a bipartisan visit of Australian politicians for talks with the country's opposition party about electoral systems. The other MPs, Liberal Mal Washer, Nationals senator John Williams and ALP MP Steve Georganas were due to fly out on Monday, but have cancelled the visit.
They were to have met Mr Anwar, as well as Malaysia's minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, Mohammed Nazri, and members of the group Bersih, a coalition campaigning for fair Elections.
''It seems that a member of the Australian Parliament is now not allowed into Malaysia because I am a supposed security risk,'' Senator Xenophon said.
''I just wanted to arrive here quietly and do our work. I didn't ask to be deported, believe me.''
In the interview that preceded Senator Xenophon's arrest, Mr Anwar lashed out at the Gillard government over its failure to speak out about widespread election fraud ahead of his country's fiercely fought election.
Mr Anwar told Fairfax Media it is hypocritical of Australia to speak out about democracy in other countries such as Afghanistan but not support Malaysia in what he described as its dirtiest ever campaign.
After a meeting and receiving the letter from Mr Anwar, Senator Carr told the ABC that Malaysia's elections are a matter for the Malaysian people.
''It's very hard for Australia to do anything about how they're run, as hard as it would be for Malaysia or another government to have a say in how Australian elections are run… we're not the election authority for Malaysia,'' Senator Carr said.
Senator Xenophon said he had visited Malaysia previously at the invitation of Mr Anwar, participating in the elections observer group last year.
''We found there are some serious systemic concerns about the Malaysian elections that are coming up. They are due to be called any day,'' he said.
Analysts say Mr Anwar's opposition has a chance of ousting the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled Malaysia for half a century since its independence from Britain.
Prime Minister Najib Razak must call the election within weeks, but parties have been campaigning for months.