I refer to the letter Thrill of first visit to M'sia dampened. My advice to Brad Shepherd is not to take his unpleasant encounter personally and try to understand the nuances and customs of Malaysians. Sometimes local gestures may be easily mistaken for rudeness especially if judged by Western standards.
Many Malaysians will empathise with him in getting short shrift from an immigration official on his first visit. Courtesy is universal so if the immigration official had been as cold and unfriendly as he described, there is no excuse and the authorities ought to train their officials to smile and learn basic politeness, a strong Malaysian trait.
Overall, I think there is a need to train Malaysians behind public service counters to be more communicative and to understand Western standards of communication because they sometimes deal with a wide range of foreigners.
In fairness to Malaysian immigration officials, on Jan 4, I passed the automatic gates to leave Malaysia using my Malaysian passport. But a red light blipped and immediately an immigration official took my passport and then very politely guided me to another counter where I was told it had less than six months validity.
With uncanny friendliness and politeness, she asked if I had permanent residence in Australia and advised me that I could get my passport renewed there. I was surprised by the courtesy. It proves that not all Malaysian immigration officials are nasty or rude. They can be helpful but it is not their job to give tourists advice on what to do or what places to visit.
In contrast I always dread returning to Perth because I know some customs and immigration officials will pick on me because of my race. Maybe I look like a drug smuggler, money launderer, slave-trader or potential terrorist. Only the Australian officials can answer that when they profile travellers and accost them with silly questions like, 'Are you travelling alone?' when they can clearly see you walking alone.
People often ask me about Australia's racist attitudes and even Asians living in other parts of Australia ask me about Perth's racist reputation. I try to convince them that ignorant people will always behave discourteously to others.
I have always complained that Perth's immigration and customs people are sometimes paranoid and unnecessarily suspicious of Asians and even of their own kind who have visited Asia. Some of them are so poorly trained and lack basic courtesy. They act like pub bouncers and have a bad habit of talking down to Asians in that condescending voice which they don't use on members of their own race. It is racism pure and simple.
They are unsuitable to be the first point of contact for foreigners entering the country and give Australia a bad name.
But in fairness, I find that many other Australian immigration and customs officials are very polite and professional, and many try to be helpful.
It all has to do with the culture and procedures of the department and bureaucracy everywhere is like a sweet and sour dish. Some nasty immigration officials suffer from chronic rudeness and their purpose in life, it seems, is to make life miserable for tired travellers. Being in a uniform gives some that single occasion to act superior over others.
So my remedy is to take down the name of the offending officer and make a formal complaint at the earliest opportunity. As travellers anywhere, we need not have to be bullied by immigration officials who have to abide by their own code of conduct and laws.
If they rob us of our human dignity while doing their job, we have a right to protest because no one deserves to be rudely treated while entering a country. It is gratuitous and only an imbecile would offend a visitor.
If officials are rude, we should not be afraid to let them know that they are unnecessarily rude and offensive, and we should demand to see their superior and make a complaint.