Passport issue: Masing, Soo `not in sync with the digital age’

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Dec 14: By embracing the digital era, Sarawak should continue to allow West Malaysians and Sabahans to use their MyKads to enter the state as all their personal data are contained in the Mykads.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah opined that the purpose of using passports or any form of documentation for entry was purely administrative in nature and to reflect immigration autonomy.

“It is immaterial whether one uses a passport, Identity Card, driving licence etc as long as there is some form of restriction before entry. That is sufficient to show that Sarawak has immigration autonomy,” said Abdul Karim when contacted.

Citing the case of the European Union (EU) member countries, as an example, Abdul Karim said what was important was for travellers’ personal identities to be kept in a common or big data for references.

“The European Union does not use passport between EU countries because improvements in data have deemed passports irrelevant.

“Likewise, banks don’t use bankbooks to deal with customers. For that matter, Amanah Saham National/Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASN/ASB) now no longer use the account books for transactions. Improvements in data transactions have allowed this to happen and, likewise, in the usage of passport,” he reiterated.

Abdul Karim was responding to calls made by State Reform Party (Star) president Lina Soo and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing that Sarawak should reintroduce the use of passports for those from the peninsula and Sabah to enter the state. Both of them considered using MyKads as infringing into the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

According to state Immigration director Datu Ken Leben, Sarawak stopped the use of passports for people from West Malaysia and Sabah since the introduction of ‘Feri Malaysia’ on Sep1, 1986. Upon entry, they would be issued with a receipt of IMM114, which permit them to land and stay here for three months on a social pass.

He had also stressed that both Sabahans and West Malaysians could still use travel documents (international passport or restricted travel document).

However, Ken said, for Sabahans and those from Peninsular Malaysia who work or study here in Sarawak, they must use travel documents.

But he was quick to point out that the police and army personnel were exempted from using travelling documents. They were merely required to use their police ID (identity card) or army passes.

Articulating his view further, Abdul Karim, who is also Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports, stressed that he stood by his opinion and considered Soo and Masing as not forward-looking and not in sync with the digital age.

“I still believe in the usage of passports for foreigners, but not Malaysians. This is because the Immigration Department is linked with the National Registration Department, and they have all records of Malaysians, including West Malaysians.

“If they don’t, how did our state Immigration Department stop West Malaysian politicians at our airports or border entries when they produce just their ICs? That reflects ICs as just as good a document.

“The use of passports for West Malaysians and Sabahan to enter Sarawak will definitely not be good for domestic tourism and business. Imagine a family of five from Malaya having to make five passports just to enter Sarawak. That’s costly.

“Even EU countries are doing away with passports among themselves as they have faith in ID or driving licence or their big data. That’s the way forward. Banks are going paperless and not using bankbook to cash money now. ASB/ASN is not using books to transact because they have faith in the digital system. That’s the way forward,” Abdul Karim reiterated. — DayakDaily