April 11, 2022
KUALA LUMPUR – THE two-year lull came to an end on April 1.
Social media is full of images of returning Malaysians happy to finally be reunited with loved ones, and of Singaporeans shopping in Johor Baru, using the stronger dollar to buy goods on the cheap.
According to the Immigration Department, 252,730 travellers entered and left Malaysia through the main entry points over a four-day period. The highest number of travellers were from Singapore by a long shot with 65,165 people, followed by Thailand with 7,841, Indonesia with 5,173, India with 2,477 and the United Kingdom with 1,485. Singapore’s Immigration & Checkpoints Authority said 27,600 people departed via the Woodlands and Tuas land checkpoints in Singapore on April 1 alone.
With the reopening of borders, it was just a matter of time before we began hearing stories of the “ugly Singaporean”. Barely 48 hours after the border reopened, photos and videos of Singaporeans behaving badly began going viral and riling up many Malaysians.
Peeing by the roadside, driving recklessly on the highway and – topping the list – Singaporean drivers filling up their petrol tanks with RON95.
When photos and videos were uploaded to Facebook, most of the comments were about urging the authorities to fine the culprits while others called for these drivers to be banned from entering Malaysia since they were obviously abusing our fuel subsidy.
No foreign-registered vehicle – motorcycles, cars or diesel-operated vehicles – is allowed to purchase RON95 under rules in place since 2011, later revised in 2020, in a directive issued by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry.
Petrol kiosks are allowed to sell RON97 without restrictions on the condition that it is directly filled into the vehicle’s tank. Only petrol stations located within 25km of the Malaysia-Singapore border entry points are permitted to sell diesel to foreign-registered vehicles and that sale is limited to no more than 20 litres per transaction per day.
On Wednesday, Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi reminded petrol station operators that those who sell subsidised petrol to foreign-registered vehicles will face stern action, with the law providing for a maximum fine of RM2mil.
The ministry has also ordered all its state offices bordering Singapore and Thailand to intensify monitoring and inspections as well as to take stern action against any party that violates the Control of Supplies Act 1961 and the Control of Supplies Regulations 1974. The Act stipulates a fine not exceeding RM1mil, or a jail sentence of not more than three years, or both for individuals; and fines no more than RM2mil for entities or companies.
In an interview with Astro Awani a few days later, Nanta admitted that with only 2,000 enforcement officers – whose responsibilities also cover other areas – it is an uphill battle to nab foreign drivers abusing Malaysia’s subsidised petrol scheme.
“Of course I want more officers, but I am appealing to petrol kiosk owners to help monitor and stop these drivers,” he said.
Malaysia spends billions on petrol subsidies. Last month, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said that the government could be paying up to RM28bil in subsidies for petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for 2022, as the Russian-Ukrainian war has pushed crude oil prices to over US$100 (RM418) a barrel, the highest level seen since 2014.
Over in Kota Tinggi, Johor, police have opened an investigation paper under Section 42 (1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 and are trying to identify the driver of a gold-coloured luxury car that was being driven dangerously on a highway, after dashcam video footage of the incident went viral.
More disconcerting is that Bukit Aman has revealed that 108,757 outstanding summonses were recorded by the police involving traffic offences committed by Singaporeans between 2016 and 2021.
Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department director Comm Datuk Mat Kasim Karim said of the total, there are 21,452 summonses not settled from 2016; 19,275 unsettled from 2017; 30,946 from 2018; 24,846 from 2019; 12,128 from 2020; and 110 from 2021.
The summonses are for various traffic offences, such as driving over the speed limit, cutting queues, ignoring traffic signs, not wearing seatbelts, using registration numbers that do not follow the regulations or specifications, no brake lights, causing road accidents and traffic obstructions, and so on, he said.
“Singaporeans with outstanding summonses and who have been issued arrest warrants can be barred from entering or leaving this country, and the traffic offenders can also be arrested and charged in court immediately,” he said in a Bernama report.
He also denied allegations that there are weaknesses in enforcement against the island republic’s citizens and stressed that his department always conducted Foreigners’ Outstanding Summonses Operations to take action against such traffic offenders.
“These outstanding summonses are also due to the failure to issue summonses to the traffic offenders because they do not have an address to which the summonses can be posted,” said Mat Kasim.
Yet on the Royal Malaysia Police Facebook page, Malaysians are demanding the police be more strict against Singaporean drivers who, they feel, are flouting the laws blatantly.
And what is it with the bad attitude of some Singaporeans – generally known for being law-abiding citizens – whenever they are in this country?
It is a sign of their lack of respect for Malaysia and Malaysians when they break our laws.
On our part, enforcement is obviously very much lacking, and this is being taken as a sign to take our laws for granted by our neighbours. But with more vehicles and buildings equipped with video cameras and CCTV systems in Malaysia, perhaps it will create “fear” among Singaporeans that they are “being watched”, just as they are back home.
Malaysia Boleh, but we cannot allow Singapore kiasu-ness to creep in, and they should be made to pay for bad behaviour.