The Star Metro
16th November 2012
by Daphne Iking
What started out to be quite an exciting adventure for my 4 year old and the family, turned out to be quite the opposite. You see, my baby girl turns five in a couple of weeks – this also means it is time for us to renew her passport.
I renewed my passport online early this year and recalled it being quite a smooth and fast process. Unfortunately, due to some technical concerns, I was unable to do Isobel’s renewal online, hence our little trip to the new Ministry of Home Affairs Complex situated at Jalan Duta. Because I assumed it was going to be a breeze like my first encounter, I decided to make it a family outing (I’ve been out on assignments almost every day and missed being with both girls).
After a few attempts on getting her passport picture right, we made our way there.
We arrived early at the Immigration Department.
First, we had to stand in a long line to get our queue number. I think I was standing fifth in line? It took me a good half hour to reach the counter. I tell the lady that I was here to renew my daughter’s passport. She prints out a number for me. I add on that I have an amendment required on Isobel’s passport. She then redirects me to another room as my ‘case’ needs to be investigated. Feeling slightly alienated, we proceeded to a smaller office next door. Staying positive, I tell my husband that there were fewer people in the next room, and hopefully, this would cut our waiting time to half.
After a few minutes, I get to speak to someone at the counter. I tell Lady A that Isobel’s passport is up for a renewal, but at the same time – there were some amendments in her name. I showed her the original copy of her new birthcert and MYKid proving the amendments (done by the Registrar Department located in the very same complex) and she told me that I had to obtain a letter from the folks below, to state that an amendment was carried out. I was a bit puzzled, and showed her the new documents as proof.
Her answer baffled me.
“Oh sorry Cik. Ini prosedur sebab takut ada yang palsu” (Sorry Miss. This is procedure as we are afraid of false documents/fraud)
Staying calm, I asked her this, “Shouldn’t your whole system be in unison with each other?”
“Oh Tak… kita department lain..dorang department lain” (Oh no..we are from different departments)
Perhaps I’ve watched too many thriller movies to see all information of an individual obtained effortlessly with the touch of a keyboard.
I guess it only happens in Hollywood.
She then asks why the amendment. I tell her my reasons. She tells me to wait awhile as she needed to run this through, whom I presume, was her superior.
So her superior, Lady B comes in. Lady B questions me, THROUGH Lady A (even though I was standing less than a metre away from her). To cut the long story short, I told her the amendments were carried out with permission granted by the court based on my divorce petition. All this, while my 4 year old listens on to a conversation between Lady A, B and myself in a less than discreet tone of voice - much to my chagrin.
My husband notices my irritation from afar and asks why the big deal, when in a normal passport procedure, the documents required are the birthcert and/or Identity card, which I had on me – and reasons for the amendment should not be of their concern as we have already settled that with the Registrar Department. Not wanting Isobel to see my annoyance, I quickly asked them to verify what was required and I’d come back with the necessary documents.
I was told to make 2 copies of Isobel’s birthcert, MYKid, the front page of her Passport and my IC as well as to obtain a letter from the Registrar department and to sign my ‘Declaration of Name Amendment’ on behalf of Isobel, in front of a Commissioner of Oath.
We headed down to the department below where we had made Isobel’s name amendments to request for the letter. After waiting for half an hour for our queue number to be called, we were sent to another person who made us wait for another half hour for our letter to be typed out. It took 3 of them to type out the 1-page letter.
After about an hour, I finally got the letter, and headed to the Commisioner of Oath who (rightfully) asked the reason of the amendments to which I showed my divorce petition. Once that was done, I went to get the copies of Isobel’s Birthcert, IC, Passport as well as my IC.
2 hours later, we were back at the Special Enquiry room but was met with a new chap. He goes through all our documents, and AGAIN, asks why the amendments. By this time, both my girls were feeling restless, so hubby took over and explained in a hush tone (hoping that he’d get the message to use an appropriate tone when enquiring further), about our predicament.
“Oh….pindaan mengikut petisyen cerai eh? Kalau macam itu, saya perlu ada salinan petisyen cerai ini juga” (Oh…changes based on your divorce petition? I’ll need copies of your petition too)
“Tadi, colleague you tak cakap pun perlu salinan dokumen cerai saya? Lagipun, akuan pindaan nama ini saya sudah tunjuk dekat Commissioner of Oath tadi” (Your colleague didn’t mention that I had to make copies of my divorce papers too. Besides, when signing the declaration, I showed the (divorce papers) to the Commissioner of Oath)
“Oh. Commissioner of Oath dengan kita tak ada kena mengena” (Oh. We are not associated with the Commissioner of Oath)
I lost it.
“Then why ask me to sign in front of a Commissioner of Oath when you need to see the original proof and have a copy of it anyway? The whole process of me signing my declaration in front of a Commissioner of Oath is TOTALLY redundant then right?”
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Yes. I congratulate the Government and the Civil service for moving up 5 notches to 18th place in the World Bank’s 2012 Report on Doing Business. Syabas and Tahniah. But we could definitely strive to do better - from improving the basic quality of the civil service to eliminating ‘form over function’ mindsets.
As Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye had suggested, “ Civil servants must continuously re-engineer and re-invent themselves with the focus on giving the best service to the public and must be sensitive to all public complaints”.
I am in total agreement to this.
3 hours later, Daphne managed to get Isobel’s passport done. Unfortunately, it will be ready in 5 working days, and not 2 hours as shown on a bunting outside. Daphne is on twitter. Follow her rants on @daphCLPT