Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) confirms Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and his entourage of grassroots leaders and members were cleared through the customs with expedited clearance via a counter specially opened by its officers.
Member of Parliament for Hougang SMC, Png Eng Huat had posted on his Facebook yesterday about his experience at the Tuas Immigration Checkpoint on Saturday after a 1-Day Desaru Tour.
He noted that a counter was opened specially for Minister of Social and Family Development, Tan Chuan-Jin who was also in Malaysia to join his residents for a tour.
Mr Png wrote that while most people in the queue probably did not mind the counter being specially opened for Minister Tan as being a Minister does come with privileges. But what is somewhat unacceptable is that an entourage of grassroots leaders and members with shopping bags in tow also enjoyed the privilege of fast clearance at the custom without needing to join the crowd. He noted that no one else from the other queues could use that specially opened counter.
ICA confirmed Mr Png's recollection of events and clarified matters from its perspective via a post on its Facebook fanpage this morning.
ICA noted that Minister Tan was travelling with 20 bus loads of people, who were his residents and grassroots leaders on July 17. And that he along with his security officers and the other passengers in his bus were given clearance at the Tuas Immigration Checkpoint, without having to queue, at around 9.20pm.
It added that the passengers in the other 19 buses (who were with Minister Tan) were cleared through the normal channels who had to join the queue.
ICA then wrote that its records showed Mr Png was there at the checkpoint for about 30 minutes, and was cleared through immigration.
It clarified that it is normal practice for ICA to give expedited clearance to Ministers, on both sides of the Causeway as well as members of the Malaysian royalty. Where they travel with others in a group, ICA officers will use their judgment on the clearance process.
Minister Tan has yet to comment publicly on this revelation, no photos of his trip is available online as well.
Many commenters turned up at the ICA's Facebook post to say that there was nothing wrong and that Mr Png was just jealous that he and his residents were not given the same treatment.
One such comment by HuiLin Heng wrote,
"If people in his bus don't get cleared at the same time, what's the point of giving him expedited clearance? He might as well be sitting duck at the queue too!
Don't be mean spirited for the sake of being so."
Ivan Tan wrote,
Somebody did not receive the Royal treatment
That why got jealous
Ahhh the Grapes is sooooo sour !!!!!!
However, there are some who voiced concerns over how grassroots leaders were given expedited clearance at the custom.
Shawn Graphy wrote,
"So it means ICA has the ability to open more counters to benefit the general public and speedup waiting time but they choose to close it and only allow VIP and their 1 bus load to go thru? Huh? Who are the tax masters do you know? Is this ownself check ownself."
JH Melvin wrote on ICA's Facebook post,
"I think if we have a government institution that makes decisions like a PAP branch more than a stat board, that speaks volumes of the values this country has gone to.
Giving special clearance to minister is *different* from giving to both minister and grassroots leaders."
Another commenter, Tan Simin wrote in ICA's post that Mr Png's post raises other issues.
"...Both Singapore-Malaysia land crossings can be incredibly crowded during peak hours, even if clearance is processed smoothly. In the case of elderly/injured individuals, as in the case with two in Mr Png's party, does ICA have SOPs in place to expedite clearance to minimize discomfort or distress for such individuals?"
Mr Png had also written in his post that there were many travellers in the long queue who had to wait patiently for hours for their turn at the immigration checkpoint on July 17, some of whom are old and tired.
He added that one of his residents is 89 years old and another was injured during the tour.
He wrote, "If these two elderly residents can wait in queue patiently for their turns, so can all my volunteers and grassroots members. After all, we are supposed to enjoy a day of fun TOGETHER. No one should not be accorded more 'fun'."
Mr Png added in his post, "The chaos, anger and confusion at the Tuas Immigration checkpoint certainly made us forget how bad the durians were yesterday, and how bad the system needs to change."