I refer to the Malaysiakini letter Malaysian consulate service a letdown . I share similar feelings as the writer about the inefficiency of their service generally. However, I had a different experience in dealing with Mr Haa, as I would refer to him.
I was a Malaysian student living in South Australia when I had my first personal encounter with the Malaysian consulate in Canberra to which I had to go to have my expired Malaysian passport renewed. Prior to coming to the office in person, I have made several telephone calls to the office.
A lot of the times, the calls went unanswered. When they did get through, I found myself talking to a female staff who was in my view was rude. Her English also left a lot to be desired. She boldly told me to come into the office in person and hung up.
Before that she gave me a list of all the documents I needed to have with me, or so I thought. I made an appointment for 9am the following Wednesday and was warned that the passport renewal could only be done between 9am to 10am. Unbelievable, isn't it?
I flew in that day and was shocked when Mr Haa, who attended to me, said I needed a Proof of Residency certificate from the Australian Immigration to show that I was not at the time an Australian citizen. I told him my situation - I had just flown in and being my first time in Canberra, I did not know the place and that I needed my passport the same day because I was flying back to Adelaide that evening.
He then provided me with directions and assured me he would still process my application even if it was after 10am when I got the certificate. I had an opportunity to chat with him when I returned with the certificate. Turned out that he was originally Vietnamese, now an Australian and had been working for the Malaysian consulate for over 14 (or was it 20?) years.
Mr Haa told me to return at 4pm to collect my passport so off I went visiting the city, its university campus and the museum. Just before I left, I met another Malaysian lady from Melbourne who had lost her passport and had been left without one for three years. The consulate staff had not been helpful until she sought help from her employer who knew which strings to pull before the consulate promised that when she came in for second time, her passport would be ready.
Anyway, I called a cab at 3pm and waited until about 4.30pm before realising it would never turn up. I was in the most panicky situation I ever had in my life. It did not help that there was no one nearby. It did not help that my mobile phone battery went flat. I felt like crying.
Out of nowhere, I saw an elderly Australian couple walking towards their car and I asked them if they could give me a ride to the consulate. They shoved me into the passenger seat and later told me that taxis are most unreliable on a Wednesday afternoon because of the Parliament sittings. They refused to accept a fare and quickly drove off to pick up their grandchildren from school.
I arrived at the consulate at 5pm when Mr Haa was about the close the door. I related that I was going to be late for my flight if I could not get a taxi. He passed me my new passport and rushed me to the nearest taxi range in his car. It was an act of kindness totally beyond his line of duty.
I was, nevertheless, late for my flight and missed it. It happened that the Malaysian lady I met earlier at the consulate had also missed her flight. She offered to pay for my accommodation for the night as I could not afford to. I declined the invitation as I needed to be at the airport at 4.30am. Concerned about my safety, she decided to stay at the airport with me.
For the first time in my life, I slept on the street (the airport has to be vacated by 10pm) on a cold, rainy, autumn night. It was indeed a trip I would never forget. That day, three complete strangers touched my heart.