The new Custom & Immigration Quarantine Complex (Bangunan Sultan Iskandar) began operations in Johor Bahru today. As one of the thousands of Malaysians who commute to work in Singapore daily, I was a firsthand witness to the new system.
Overall, I must say that I am impressed by the facilities of the CIQ Complex - and more so by the security and verification measures that the old customs system sorely lacked.
However, I have one very serious gripe that I hope the CIQ Complex management will immediately seek to rectify.
Once a bus passenger clears the passport check, the next process is to head back down to the bus waiting area to try and catch a bus. On a workday morning, this step is literally a descent into madness.
If any reader has ever taken a bus from Malaysia to Singapore at the old customs complex, they'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Just like always, the bus crowd becomes a literal rabid mob!
There is no concept of cutting queue, because there is no such thing as a queue. Pushing, shoving and elbowing are the rule. Manners and gentility are the suicidal exception.
Four to eight people will simultaneously try to force their way into the bus door from every direction. One either joins the gladiatorial mob, or misses the bus. And the next one after that. And the next one, and the next one.
It doesn't matter in what order you arrive at the bus waiting area - the only criteria that count are brute strength and a willingness to trample your own civility into the asphalt.
Not only is this chaotic, uncomfortable, highly inefficient, and an environment where might makes right and the meek do not inherit the bus seat. It is also mortally dangerous, as the surging crowd spills far out onto the road, forcing the buses to carefully inch past the thronging bodies, making things even slower.
There are no markings demarcating official queue lines. There are no guidelines for safe and orderly boarding. Even the old customs complex had metal bars to attempt to form an orderly bus queue (but which were usually ignored anyway).
At least with the old customs complex, you could avoid becoming one of the uncivilised bus barbarians by simply walking across the one kilometre Johor-Singapore Causeway.
But now a journey on foot down the 'Great CIQ Mountain' and then across the Causeway takes at least twice the time and is a sweaty effort. (Yes, I've timed it.) It is a daunting odyssey, what more if you also had to walk up to the CIQ Complex!
And I say this as an adult, whole in body and wearing comfortable flat-soled shoes. Imagine the conundrum faced by the old, infirm, young children, and wearers of high heels.
Therefore, on behalf of every single Malaysian and foreigner who will ever pass through the CIQ Complex in the countless decades to come, I sincerely, pleadingly and beseechingly request that the CIQ Complex management take immediate measures to rectify this highly embarrassing situation with the bus queues.
First, clearly demarcate the queuing lines for each bus waiting area. Second, put up plenty of notices forcefully stating the strict requirement for orderly queues. Third, assign enough dedicated staff to ensure people obey these rules. Fourth, impose harsh punishment for queue-jumpers and give staff full and official authority to reprimand offenders.
Sad and shameful though it may be, the only way many Malaysians will act civilised is if they are forced to by strict rule of law, backed up with debilitating punishment for disobedience.
I sincerely hope that these concrete measures will be carried out as soon as possible. For at current, every visitor and tourist who passes through the CIQ Complex is left with the impression that Malaysia is a nation with First World facilities but a truly Third World mentality.