Tuesday 14 June 2011

Squats not part of procedure, Immigration to probe reports

KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — The Johor Immigration Department said today it would probe reports that two Singaporean women were made to do squats in the nude, while pointing out that such a punishment was not prescribed under the law.

It was reported in the Singapore Straits Times today that the two women who drove to Johor Baru for supper last week were questioned by Malaysian immigration officials, handcuffed, thrown behind bars and made to do squats while naked.

The two women said they had driven into Johor Baru without getting their passports stamped, through an unmanned immigration lane.

Following their punishment, they were allowed to return to Singapore after 48 hours with a warning.
Now back in Singapore, both women say they will never go back to Malaysia.

Johor Immigration Director Mohd Nasri Ishak told The Malaysian Insider today that naked squats were not part of any procedure to punish foreigners for entering the country illegally.

“They can be fined up to RM10,000 or sent to jail for up to five years,” he said.

Mohd Nasri added that his department would conduct a probe into the matter immediately.

He pointed out that the media should not just report one party’s version of events.

“We will investigate and listen to the other party first,” he said.

One of the women, who only identified herself as Chang, said she had been driven to Johor Baru by her friend, a property agent in her late 20s, who wanted to be known only as Lim, at about 1.30am last Thursday, the Straits Times reported.

Lim was driving her new Nissan Latio. It was the first time she had driven to Malaysia, although she had been driven there before by friends, according to the Singapore newspaper.

“We just wanted to go for supper, polish my car and explore a bit,” she said. “I just bought my car a month ago, so we thought we’d make it an adventure.”

At the Malaysian immigration side of the Causeway, they drove into a lane that was not manned.
‘There wasn’t anyone at the station and the green light was on,” Lim told the Straits Times.

“I pressed the intercom and couldn’t hear anything because of the static, so I just continued driving when the barrier opened.”

Chang told the daily they drove on because they thought that Malaysia’s newly introduced biometric system — which has been in the news — would be ahead.

The women realised that they had proceeded without getting their passports stamped, and immediately did a U-turn.

By 2am, they were back at the checkpoint and explaining their mistake to the officers there. But they said the officers did not buy their story, although they pointed out that their Singapore passports would show that they had just entered Malaysia, the newspaper reported.

According to the news report, the two women were left on their own in a room for about two hours before they were taken to another meeting room at about 4am.

Chang said that at about noon last Thursday, an officer told them they would have to pay a fine of RM3,000 (S$1,200) each before they could be let off. Another officer had earlier said they could be fined up to RM10,000 and jailed for five years for illegally entering Malaysia.

The women said they signed a statement in Malay, and asked to be taken to an ATM. They waited for three hours but no one came for them, they told the newspaper.

At about 5pm, they were told that they would be transferred to the Pontian Remand Centre and held for up to 14 days.

At the remand centre, the women were handcuffed. They also had to remove their belongings before being patted down by a female officer.

“They asked us to strip, take off all our clothes and underwear, and then asked us to stand up and down while pulling our ears,” said Lim to the Straits Times.

After doing 10 squats, the women were told to put on their jeans and were given T-shirts. They were then locked in a cell three-quarters the size of a basketball court with 50 other women, mostly from Indonesia, China and the Philippines.

The women spent the night in the cell. At about 5pm the next day, they were told they would be released, and were driven in a six-seater van back to the immigration checkpoint at the Causeway where they received a warning letter.

In Parliament today, the DAP demanded that the Home Ministry respond to the reports.

Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran said that the act was “humiliating” and “ridiculous,” while Bakri MP Er Teck Hwa said the incident would give other countries the perception that Malaysia was a “lawless” country.

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