Anyone who has travelled abroad would know better than to be rude to the authorities at immigration checkpoints. No immigration officer in the world would tolerate any nuisance from visitors and for good reasons too.
Why then would a family from Singapore take on the immigration officer at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex in Johor Baru?
A mother and her two teenage children from Singapore were arrested after they allegedly verbally abused an immigration officer. In the incident last Friday, the 42-year-old woman was asked to wind down the tinted rear windows of her car but was said to have refused to comply.
When she was instructed to step out of her car with her children, the woman allegedly showed her middle finger to the immigration officer.
She also allegedly shouted vulgarities while pressing the car horn repeatedly, forcing immigration officers to take them into custody. In their defence, the three had claimed that the immigration officer asked them for a bribe, which they refused.
In enforcing immigration laws, these officers have to project an image of authority. In doing so, they have to stay aloof and detached. In many cases, this is seen as being rude. They have an important task at hand and they are not in a position to cut anyone any slack.
The immigration officers in countries such as Australia, the United States and Britain are alert on any possible visitors intending to secure illegal employment in their countries. There are also millions of people trying to sneak into these countries in pursuit of a better life.
The late Tan Sri Eric Chia, then managing director of Perwaja Steel, was arrested by New York police at the John F Kennedy Airport on March 2, 1993 where he was reportedly detained for 24 hours and shuttled between four prisons before being produced in court. The US said it was over an altercation at the airport.
This writer was asked to volunteer for a gunshot residue test once, which he readily submitted. Then there were random immigration checks even before the checkpoints. This was after the heightened alert due to terrorism.
Instead of crying foul over racial profiling, it made more sense to submit to the gunshot residue test which would undoubtedly be negative since I have never fired a gun in my life. I believed I was singled out due to my physique, which matched that of a militant then, rather than my complexion and facial features.
Officers deployed at international airports are trained to risk assess passengers and identify those individuals who may be of interest for customs, biosecurity, health, family law, law-enforcement or national security reasons. This is according to the website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of Australia.
If you understand why the authorities are trying to do, you would cooperate and not challenge them.
Why then did the family from Singapore take on the immigration officer at the Malaysian checkpoint? It shows the lack of respect for the authorities of another country.
Would this family be confident enough to pull off this stunt in the US, the UK, Australia or even Singapore itself?
Their alleged defiance of the authorities at the Malaysian checkpoint shows a lack of respect. The immigration officers were right in detaining them.
The family are currently detained under Section 56(1) (g) of the Immigration Act for 14 days pending investigations. If visitors don’t know how to respect our laws and officers, they must be taught how to.