Prolonged Malaysia-Singapore border closure straining family ties, says group

Mr Dayalan Sreebalan said it was time for the government to be honest about whether the border would reopen in only 2022.
Mr Dayalan Sreebalan said it was time for the government to be honest about whether the border would reopen in only 2022.PHOTO: ST FILE

JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government needs to put in more effort to reopen the border with Singapore as the 13-month-long closure is causing a lot of strain on families.

Malaysia-Singapore Workers Task Force president Dayalan Sreebalan said there was an increase in the number of cases related to depression and family crises, besides the agony of not seeing their loved ones since March 18 last year.

"I'm getting calls about spouses needing legal aid after a husband or wife is found to be having an affair. This has broken up many families.

"There was also a case of a woman who committed suicide here recently because of a similar incident," he said in an interview.

Mr Dayalan added that many Malaysians working in Singapore were also unable to keep up with the increasing cost of living such as room rental, which has increased from $200 to $800 per month.

"So if a worker earns $1,500 per month in Singapore, after deducting his room rental and living expenses, he hardly has anything left to send back home," he said, adding that many of the workers chose to remain in Singapore in the hope that the border would reopen soon.

Mr Dayalan said it was time for the government to be honest about whether the border would reopen only in 2022 because this would allow many Malaysians to decide to quit and return home, instead of suffering alone abroad.

Asked why workers could not just come back for a short break using the Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) to be with their families, Mr Dayalan said Singapore companies were not willing to risk forking out $2,100 for the worker's quarantine.

"They have to pay this upfront during the application. These companies are worried about incurring losses should the Malaysian worker fail to return to Singapore after his break," he added.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin should look at ways to resolve border issues when he meets his Singaporean counterpart next month.

"It is sad that it has been about a year and even our high commissioner's position in Singapore has yet to be filled.

"I feel only Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad is doing his best to push for the border to be reopened as he knows local sentiments, while Putrajaya is just dragging its feet," he said, adding that many of his constituents were suffering, not being able to see their loved ones for more than a year.

Mr Hassan said one of his constituents, who is a cleaner in the medical sector in Singapore, is depressed at not being able to come back to help her husband, who became partially paralysed recently.

"She was vaccinated in Singapore and fears losing her job if she comes back here," he said, adding that she fell and injured her hand recently and was all alone in Singapore.

"There has been no light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to solving these issues, save for lots of empty promises," he said, adding that Malaysians who are already vaccinated in Singapore should be allowed to enter Malaysia without any quarantine restrictions.