23 April 2019
AS I’m writing this, I am still groggy from my long flight and short sleep at the airport of a neighbouring country where I was waiting for my connecting flight back to Malaysia.
I had hoped to catch a few hours’ sleep in one of the many snooze areas at this world-class airport. But my sleep was disrupted by a policeman who politely but authoritatively tapped on my shoulder to wake me up. Half asleep, I made out that the gun holstered on his hip was real and it wasn’t a dream. The other heavily armed personnel in military fatigues standing nearby very quickly brought all my senses online.
After checking my passport and boarding pass, he said a quick thank you and moved on together with 10 to 15 other police officers to the next area to conduct their security sweep of the transit section of the airport.
I was told that this happens at around 3am every day and the whole airport is “swept” in this manner to ensure that no one is loitering in the transit area and that everyone has a connecting flight in the morning.
I’m not sure what happens if one doesn’t have a valid boarding pass and documentation but the seriousness of the manner in which the security personnel carried out their task would suggest that one couldn’t “live” in the transit area for months, as has happened in our own airports much to the detriment of our image abroad as a country that takes the security of its airports seriously.
The incident where a Syrian refugee spent months living in the KLIA2 transit lounge last year must be viewed as a serious breach in the security of our airports. And it wasn’t the first time this incident happened at our airports.
Although we sympathise with refugees and their plight, we shouldn’t appear weak in the eyes of the world and to those who may seek to exploit this chink in our airport security.
Perhaps this sort of daily security sweep is already happening in our airports since the incident of the Syrian man last year that went on almost like a drama and was broadcast daily to the world on social media.
Accepting refugees on humanitarian grounds is one thing, but we shouldn’t be seen as weak when it comes to maintaining law and order.