Malaysia's Home Ministry is probing into suspiciously frequent breakdowns of a crucial 20-year-old system of airport security that may be compromising national security, the Malay Mail Online reported on Wednesday (May 18), citing a ministry source.
“It is believed the system may be downed deliberately, suggesting corruption,” the source was quoted as saying of Malaysia Immigration System (myIMMs).
“Those manning and operating the electronic screening of passengers — from the authorities to airline staff and employees of the system development company — are being investigated.”
The source said the frequent “crashes” of the system had raised serious questions about it ability to keep out would-be terrorists, people smugglers and other criminals.
“The high number of ‘breakdowns’ also suggests that many on watch lists could have gone under the radar,” the source told the Malay Mail.
Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamad had on Tuesday called into doubt the system's ability to screen incoming foreigners due to its "embarassingly" frequent glitches which allow foreigners to enter Malaysia through the Kuala Lumpur airports easily.
His comments came days after two Immigration officers were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the trafficking of Sri Lankan nationals to Switzerland using fake Malaysian passports.
Datuk Nur Jazlan said after an inspection visit to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) that it was "embarrassing" to count the number of times the myIMMs had broken down in the past month alone - the longest being an hour the very morning of his visit, The Star reported.
“I looked at the problem of the Immigration system that has been operating for close to 20 years,” Datuk Nur Jazlan told reporters.
“In between, it was upgraded several times and yet it ‘hangs’ so often. Even this morning, it was down for an hour. I think this is not acceptable for the company as the problem is recurring.”
“I want the problem fixed immediately,” he said, adding that the glitches had allowed people to enter Malaysia easily through KLIA and klia2.
While he said the number of foreigners entering Malaysia undocumented was not big, he maintained that it was “a dangerous matter”.
“Even if it is only one person it is already a danger to the country because if you let in one, two or three terrorists they can do a lot of havoc.”
Datuk Nur Jazlan also noted that immigration officers did not register in the system information obtained manually from travellers while the electronic system was out of service.
"This enables the bad apples to work with syndicates - they would take advantage of the flaws by trafficking people when the system is down," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
The facial recognition system was also found wanting. Said the deputy minister: “I saw it for myself the percentage of verification is still not 100 per cent and therefore travellers still have to go through the normal finger print verification.
“We are just finding out about this now. We will see how we can improve it until it’s 100 per cent.”
He said the ministry was also ascertaining the integrity of Immigration officers at the counters.
“Psychology techniques will be used to evaluate their suitability of their integrity in such high risk positions before they are placed there,” he said.
“The SOPs for counter staff are in place but the problem arises when the system is down and they have to do checks manually.”