Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing has dismissed a news report claiming he forcibly entered the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) arrival hall to demand for a tourist’s release, saying that he had a valid pass to be in the area and was there on a work visit at the time.

The minister of tourism, arts and culture questioned the news outlet’s intention in giving the “wrong perception” through its report that alleged he had entered the arrival hall without applying for a pass.

Tiong suggested that the news report with an accompanying photograph that went viral may have been done with the intention to conceal alleged corruption, before calling for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate activities at KLIA’s Terminal 1.

Tiong confirmed that he was depicted in the photograph and said he had been at KLIA at that time after receiving a complaint from a tourist, in order to understand the situation when foreign tourists arrive in Malaysia and that this was a normal monitoring done by a minister who personally visits the site.

“I firmly deny the allegation which accused me of releasing a foreign tourist detained by the Immigration. I have no such power, and I will only be harming my own reputation if I do so. I’m still sane and know the limits as a tourism, arts and culture (Motac) minister,” he said in a statement today.

Tiong suggested he, as a minister, had to give serious attention to the matter that was of national interest, as it could affect the nation’s image and scare tourists.

“If we are not serious in this issue now, it won’t ever be resolved. Maybe there are some officers who are afraid that this matter will be exposed until it affects their personal interest?” he asked.

Tiong said he was grateful that his presence at the airport has now exposed the alleged existence of corruption among certain officers and alleged chronic abuse of powers at Malaysia’s entry points.

While initially preferring not to publicise this as he was taking actions through more practical channels, Tiong said he was now explaining the incident as it has gone viral and many media practitioners had contacted him over it.

Explaining what had happened, Tiong said the female tourist had been detained without being told why, and that problems arose when the foreign tourist and Immigration officers had trouble communicating with each other.

Tiong claimed that the tourist was said to have complete documents, but their communication failure resulted in the Immigration authorities being unable to obtain the necessary documents from the tourist.

“The woman who was detained was also not given food as should be done during detention and this is clearly in breach of the law. I was made to understand that the woman was only fed once only during the 15 hours she was detained,” he said.

Tiong said this was why he had since March raised the issue about communication through an initiative to provide translators for foreign tourists from the Middle East, China, and India at Malaysia’s entry points, with the aim of facilitating the process upon the arrival of foreign tourists.

He questioned why there was an alleged refusal of the translators prepared by Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAB).

He claimed that there have also been foreign tourists who had their handphones seized upon arrival and not being told why they were being detained, questioning if this is according to the procedures and standards under the law.

He also claimed to have received information that there were officers who “changed the law” as they wished while on the field, without specifying which government agencies or departments these officers belong to.

In his visit to KLIA which became viral, Tiong said he had brought with him investigative officers from the integrity unit under his ministry. MACC officers are generally placed at integrity units in ministries, government bodies, and government-linked companies.

“I think it is time for the MACC team to enter KLIA1 on a large scale to investigate what goes on at this main entry point of the country,” he said.

Tiong said the photograph which went viral clearly came internally from agencies itself without specifying which agency he was referring to, asking: “Why make viral the photograph with inaccurate perception and news with defamatory elements?”

“I stress again that MCMC must investigate from the internal officer which made viral and defamed using those photographs and information,” he said, referring to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) by its acronym.

“Although their intentions are not known, it is possible they were shocked by MACC’s participation and worry that their ‘source of income’ would be cut off or be jeopardised. It could also be that they wish to protect their friends by intentionally leaking information, making baseless accusations and spreading false reports,” he suggested, again without specifying who he was referring to.

Tiong claimed to have been told that there were Immigration officers who allegedly asked for money in order to release detained foreign tourists, claiming that there were some who allegedly asked for up to RM3,000 to be released from detention including for the flight ticket to return to the country of origin.

He claimed that an additional RM3,000 was sought if the tourist wanted to return to the country of origin immediately using a “special lane”, and RM12,000 was allegedly sought as the cost for visa processing.

“All this information will be given to the MACC so that investigations can be carried out to restore Malaysia’s image especially at the country’s entry points,” he said.

At the same time, Tiong said he would raise to the Cabinet this matter, as well as the proposal to abolish the practice of agents handling foreign tourists who were rejected from entering Malaysia or in the “Not to Land” (NTL) category due to the increasingly chronic issue of alleged non-transparency and power abuse which was hurting Malaysia’s image internationally.

“We should cancel third parties who handle flight tickets for immigration detainees in Malaysia for their return to their country, and I wish to propose that this matter be handled by airline companies to prevent a repeat of negative incidents like this,” he said.

Tiong also urged the public to verify a report before spreading it, and said he was confident that Malaysia could be cleared of leakages if everyone worked together.

He said his ministry will together with the prime minister continue to work on eradicating corruption and power abuse in Malaysia.

Separately, Immigration director-general Datuk Ruslin Jusoh said the Immigration Department of Malaysia has taken immediate steps to start a comprehensive investigation on the alleged incident mentioned in the news report, and urged the public not to make any speculations or provocation that may affect the investigation which is being carried out.

Source : Malay Mail

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