A family of six drove into Johor Bahru, Malaysia on the eve of Mother’s Day but was kena “fined” for accidentally bypassing the Johor Bahru checkpoint, reported Zaobao.
As a result, the family was asked to settle the matter privately by paying the officials “coffee money”, otherwise they will get into serious trouble.
According to the report, the Shin Min Daily News reader known as Mrs Song told the reporter that on 7 May, she and her husband, along with their two children aged 9 and 11 as well as her parents, drove from the Woodlands checkpoint into Johor Bahru at about 6.30pm. The family of six had intended to celebrate Mother’s Day in Johor Bahru.
When the car arrived at the Johor Bahru checkpoint, someone removed a safety cone and instructed them to continue to clear the customs. They drove to the customs clearance counter but found that there was no one at the counter.
The 42-year-old told the reporter that it has been two years since they drove to Malaysia. She thought that the customs clearance procedures in Malaysia had changed and hence she didn’t put too much thought into it and continued to drive forward. After making payment using the Touch ‘n Go card, the gate opened automatically.
“We went to the vehicle inspection checkpoint, we then took the initiative to ask an officer why they don’t check our passports and stamps now,” she added.
In response to her question, the officer immediately told them that they cannot continue to clear the customs and they must go to another office to clear customs.
“I entered the office with six passports and a male officer in his 30s asked me what happened. He then told me this is a very serious offence and told me to wait outside the office as he withholds all our passports,” she said.
Later, the male officer came out and took her and her husband to a corner and asked: “Do you want to settle this privately, or would you prefer to be detained and fined?”
The male officer told them that if they prefer the latter, they would be fined RM10,000 (about SGD 3,100). But if they are agreeable to settling the matter privately, each adult would only need to pay RM100, which is about SGD 32 each.
Instructed to “kiap” money inside passport
The Singaporean told the reporter that they were instructed to kiap the money inside a passport, while the other party used his mobile phone as a cover. The man then put the mobile phone and cash into his pocket.
Her husband Mr Song shared that when he tried to negotiate with the officer, the other party commented that the money was too little. “My boss will not agree,” the man said.
After negotiating, they came to an agreed amount of RM200. The other party then took out a passport from the office and instructed him to kiap the money in his passport and go back into the office to find him.
He said that the officer was wearing a uniform, but he paired it with a pair of slippers on his feet. He described the man’s build to be on a chubbier side. He also remembers the man’s name on his name tag.
Mrs Song said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, her family would drive to Johor Bahru every three or four months, but this was the first time she encountered such a thing, and she hoped to share her experience with fellow Singaporeans.
Shin Min Daily News has tried reaching out to the relevant departments in Malaysia but did not hear from them.
Aware that bribery is wrong, but afraid that the whole family will be detained
Knowing that bribery is illegal, the Singaporean family said that they were forced to give RM200 because they were afraid that the family, along with their children, would be detained.
Mrs Song pointed out that she was aware that bribery is wrong, but at that point in time, the officials were threatening to report them for bypassing the customs. The thought of having the whole family detained or fined scares and worries her.
“I had eldery and children with me. At that time, I was too scared to know what to do. The children were also very nervous and asked us what happened. There was no other way, so we were forced to give them the money. We said that we didn’t have much cash, and after bargaining, they finally agreed to the amount of RM200 (about SGD 63)”, she said.
She also pointed out that when her husband was talking with the officers, her husband tried to explain that there was no one at the counter and therefore he drove on. But the other party asked them, “Are you sure there is no one?”. To which, both did not dare to say anything more.
Malaysian MP: Can contact the police for verification
Johor state assemblyman for Stulang Andrew Chen Kah Eng suggested that if anyone gets unfair treatment at the checkpoint, they can immediately call the police or find other officers for verification.
Chen, who once served as the chairman of the special task force for the checkpoint at the Johor Causeway, told the reporter of Shin Min Daily News that anyone entering Malaysia must go through normal customs clearance procedures. For example, passports must be checked by immigration officials and stamped.
“If a motorist is at the checkpoint and finds that there is no one at the immigration counter, he needs to stop his vehicle and ask for assistance instead of going straight,” Chen added.
He also revealed that so far, he has not received complaints, nor heard of cases like what Mr Song and his family have experienced.