6 July 2023
Malaysia’s Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced a slate of new measures that will be introduced at the country’s entry points following an incident of alleged corruption towards a Chinese traveller at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
From now, only senior officers of the Immigration Department who hold a grade of KP41 and above will have the authority to determine if a traveller should be imposed with a “Not to Land” (NTL) order, he said in a press conference on Wednesday (Jul 5).
This is a change from the current practice which allows junior officers holding a grade of KP29 to decide if a traveller should be denied entry.
Mr Saifuddin also announced that officers who can communicate in foreign languages will be stationed at help desks to aid travellers facing any language barriers, adding that the help desks will be placed in the near future.
“We will have a help desk that will appoint … an officer who can communicate in foreign languages, especially Mandarin, English, Arabic (and) Tamil,” he said.
Another measure to be introduced is the installation of more signage informing travellers about the questions that they will be asked as they approach the immigration counters, he said.
Mr Saifuddin noted that from January to June this year, Malaysia welcomed 592,490 tourists from China. He added that in these six months, an average of 300 NTL orders were imposed on Chinese tourists.
“This amount of NTL is also experienced by other countries including Bangladesh, India (and) Indonesia. That figure is relatively higher compared to the NTL imposed on Chinese citizens. That is a fact.
“So a clearer picture of this shows that if such restrictions are imposed, there must be a reason to it,” he said.
Mr Saifuddin also said that Transport Minister Anthony Loke had been asked during a Cabinet meeting earlier to examine the handling of travellers who have been given an NTL order.
He explained that travellers charged with an NTL order are managed by Mono Circle, a private company appointed by the Airline Operators Company (AOC). Since Feb 2015, Mono Circle has been handling the meals, drinks, and tickets of such travellers to depart from Malaysia, he said.
“Earlier, … the minister of transport (was asked) to look at this aspect again. Is this a normal practice or what?
“This (practice) causes confusion because when a person who is subject to NTL is asked to provide a certain amount of money for the purpose of buying a ticket, sometimes … it is mistaken as an immigration officer asking for money,” said Mr Saifuddin.
According to Free Malaysia Today, the transport minister confirmed on Thursday that the private company is being investigated. Mr Loke reportedly said that representatives from the ministry and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) have been meeting with AOC.
“We have to find out from the AOC about the contract period and terms they agreed to … Action will only be taken once we have received all the details,” he reportedly said.
Last Thursday, a local news portal reported that a commotion occurred at KLIA, when a Malaysian minister allegedly attempted to “rescue” a female Chinese national who was denied entry into the country.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Tiong King Sing was said to have barged into the arrival hall without applying for a security pass, with the incident going viral on social media.
Mr Tiong was quoted by The Star as saying that the media reports which said he did not have a security pass to enter the arrival zone of KLIA were “untrue” and he had a pass that was valid until next year.
According to The Star, the Chinese national alleged that although her travel documents were in order, she was denied entry by immigration officers. She also claimed that she was asked to pay several thousand ringgit if she wanted to be allowed entry.
According to the New Straits Times (NST), Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Azam Baki said that the woman and her witness returned home on Wednesday. They were allowed to leave after their statements had been recorded, he said.
He added that the two travellers, Mr Tiong and eight immigration officers who were on duty at the time of the incident were among 14 people whose statements had been recorded so far.
The MACC has also identified the “middleman” who allegedly demanded for an administration fee of RM18,000 (US$3,900) via a phone call for the woman to be allowed into Malaysia, he said.
“Initial investigations show that 41 individuals had arrived on NTL and were supposed to have been directed to a company appointed by Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd to facilitate (their return).
“It was only after that the complainant received the telephone call, requesting her to pay an administration fee. We have recorded the company director’s statement and also have identified the middleman who was allegedly responsible for making the demand.
“We are trying to locate the middleman before bringing him in for questioning,” he was quoted by NST as saying on Wednesday, adding that another four or five individuals are expected to be called up before the MACC completes its investigation.
“Once completed, we will hand over the IP (investigation papers) to the DPP (deputy public prosecutor) for further directives,” he said.
Immigration Director-General Ruslin Jusoh said last Friday that his department would investigate the incident. A day later, the MACC said it will investigate allegations of corruption by immigration officers when handling foreign tourists at the country’s entry points.
During the press conference on Wednesday, Mr Saifuddin said that the home ministry is prepared to work with the MACC to continue investigations into the incident.
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