As borders between Malaysia and Singapore finally reopen after a protracted period of lockdowns, many families and tourists are more than eager to finally make the trip across the Causeway once more. However, that journey didn’t pan out quite as smoothly as one Singaporean family of six had hoped, according to a report made by Singaporean Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News (SMDN).
Singaporean family attempts to head into Johor ahead of Mother’s Day
In an article that was published on 11th May 2022, the paper alleges that a Singaporean family of six had been attempting to drive into Johor Bahru from the Woodlands Checkpoint on May 7th 2022. As it was the eve of Mother’s Day, they had intended to mark their occasion by celebrating it in Malaysia. However, the 42-year-old woman, her husband, two children, and her parents, found the otherwise routine procedure encountering a snag.
Speaking with Shin Min Daily News, the woman, who took after her husband’s surname of Song, explained someone had removed a cone in-front of their car and indicated for them to drive through as they arrived at the Johor checkpoint.
Pulling up to the customs counter, they were surprised to find that nobody was manning the booth. Assuming that custom procedures have changed in Malaysia over the past two years, the family didn’t think much of it and drove on after paying the toll fare in full using their Touch’n Go card. As they approached the vehicle inspection checkpoint manned by an officer, they inquired as to why they were allowed to drive past the checkpoint without having their passports first inspected and stamped.
Officer allegedly asked for ‘duit kopi‘
Upon realising the situation at hand, the officer told the family that they cannot proceed any further as they have yet to complete the necessary immigration procedures, and must make up for all the previous steps by driving to an office nearby. Doing as she was told, Song brought out all six passports that she and her family members held to the office, where she was asked a series of questions by another officer.
Telling her that they had committed a ‘serious offense’, he held on to their passports before heading into the office. Moments later, he returned and allegedly told both Song and her husband that they could face a fine of RM10,000 (S$3,160), unless they chose to settle the matter ‘privately’ and paid RM100 (S$32) per family member.
Song’s husband attempted to negotiate the amount with the officer, but was told that his superior ‘would not agree to it’ as the amount was ‘too little’. And while she pointed out that there had not been anybody manning the counters at the time, the officer asked if she was absolutely sure if that was true. Eventually, they settled on RM200 (S$63), and were told to stuff it in a passport and slide it to another officer waiting in the office.
And while the couple knew that it was wrong to participate in an act of bribery, they said that the officer had sounded ‘threatening’ and accused them of crossing the border illegally. As they were traveling with their children and elderly parents, the couple wound up giving in and paid the alleged bribe.
Johor Menteri Besar vows to investigate the claims
The story has since caught the attention of Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz, who took to posting a Facebook comment on Shin Min Daily News (SMDN)’s post on the incident. Vowing to investigate the claims thoroughly, his office has since reached out to the paper in hoping to contact the Song family for more information.
Malaysian assemblyman Andrew Chen also advises motorists to step out of their vehicle and flag down any available officers, if they notice that the custom booths are unmanned. He adds that all travellers looking to enter Malaysia are required to undergo the usual immigration procedures, which includes having their passports inspected and stamped.
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