Can't drop departure checks, says MHA

About 300,000 people use the two land crossings between Malaysia and Singapore daily, previous reports have said.
About 300,000 people use the two land crossings between Malaysia and Singapore daily, previous reports have said.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

They are a vital part of border security, it says in response to Najib's single-checkpoint proposal

•The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday that it was not possible to do away with immigration and Customs checks for travellers leaving Singapore.

It was responding to a proposal by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for a single checkpoint at the Causeway to improve traffic flow.

Under the proposal as reported by The Star newspaper, travellers going to Singapore will be checked at the Republic's side, and those heading into Johor checked at the Malaysian side.

These are among the recommendations being studied by a task force headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Mr Najib was quoted as saying at an event in Muar town on Friday.

Datuk Seri Zahid is also Malaysia's Home Minister in charge of immigration issues.

Asked about this, MHA told The Sunday Times yesterday that "it is not possible to do away with immigration and Customs checks for departing travellers".

From Tuesday, toll charges at the Second Link will be reduced between 47 per cent and 82 per cent during off-peak hours, depending on the vehicle class. The move is meant to draw more vehicles and people away from the Causeway checkpoints.

The ministry said departure checks are a "vital part of Singapore's border security strategy".

"The Singapore Government will continue to work with Malaysia to explore other practical ways to facilitate travel between Singapore and Malaysia," the ministry added.

At the event last Friday, Mr Najib was reported as saying there is a proposal to have a covered walkway along the Causeway for pedestrians.

His office released a statement on Friday evening announcing reduced levy and toll rates on the Malaysian side of the Second Link in Tuas.

From Tuesday, toll charges at the Second Link will be reduced between 47 per cent and 82 per cent during off-peak hours, depending on the vehicle class. The move is meant to draw more vehicles and people away from the two Causeway checkpoints. For example, toll charges will be reduced to RM4 (S$1.34) from RM7.50 for private vehicles.

Singapore's Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Friday that the Republic will match Malaysia's revised toll rates from April 1.

Previous reports said some 300,000 people use the two land crossings between Malaysia and Singapore daily, with the Causeway recording the bulk of the travellers.

Several commuters said they believe the proposal by Mr Najib may help cut down travel times, especially during festive seasons.

IT manager Chris Wong, 35, who visits Johor Baru with his family every few weeks to buy groceries, sometimes gets caught in the jam at the Causeway.

He said it can take nearly two hours to get across. "Sometimes, the traffic flow would be so heavy and we would get stuck for a really long time," he said.

Others, however, expect security checks to be more stringent if they were carried out at only one side of the Causeway.

Marketing executive Dawn Tan, 25, said: "If the checks are more thorough, then it might not make much of a difference even if there is only a single checkpoint."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 11, 2018, with the headline 'Can't drop departure checks, says MHA'. Print Edition | Subscribe