Sunday, November 18, 2007
Singapore Truly Unique but could be a bit more Muslim friendly!
I refer to the ongoing Visit Singapore Campaign being broadcasted every now and then on our television screens.
No doubt today's Singapore is a far cry from what the island republic was when I was working there from 1980 to 1986 and I was totally lost when I was there recently.
Everything has changed and the republic is truly a well developed island with first class infrastructures and equally charming citizens to boot.
Singaporeans are well behaved and they do not litter as most Malaysians do. The expressways are good and well connected to most of the housing estates and traveling is a breeze.
The Singapore economy has grown so tremendously that today its currency is quite stronger than our Malaysian ringgit.
When I was working there in the 80s, the exchange rate was S$1.00 = RM1.40. Today a Singapore Dollar is worth RM2.30 and quite steady in the daily forex fluctuations.
Tens of thousands of Malaysians commute to the island republic daily to work there from Johor Bahru, a city that is so chaotic and disorganized compared to the Republic of Singapore with its well maintained, first world infrastructure and first world working mentality of its Immigration and Police Force as well.
You can immediately sense the contrast of standards between Singapore and JB the minute you drive towards the Causeway and approach the Malaysian Customs and Immigration Border Checkpoint.
No one bothers to really check your vehicle at the Malaysian side and the Malaysian Immigration officers are hidden from the public's view with their boarded up aluminium panels or some other piece of cardboard sheet.
There is only a small opening at the drive by counter from which you hand over your passport (if there is anyone manning the counter).
When I first went through the Malaysian checkpoint in the early morning, most of the Immigration counters were unmanned and everyone just passed through to the Causeway without having our passports chopped.
It was really shameful to me to see the lack of professionalism on our side where the Malaysian Customs and Immigration seemed non existent on that particular morning and then on the subsequent mornings, I was appalled to find beggars standing between the lines of vehicles heading to Singapore, right there at our nation's border checkpoint!
Imagine that! What a bloody embarrassment for this country which boasts of having the world's tallest twin towers and many other infrastructural achievements to allow beggars and vagrants messing up our nation's image at the very visual border checkpoint with South East Asia's most developed island republic!
The beggars looked like Vietnamese or Burmese chaps and had missing arms or legs, standing right smack in the middle of the lines of vehicles heading towards the causeway! Motorists had to drive away from them to avoid bumping into those beggars.
Amongst the motorists were lots of Singaporean returning home after visiting our nation and probably after filling up their petrol tanks to the max. A liter of unleaded petrol in Singapore costs S$1.79 @ RM4.11. I saw lots of Singapore registered vehicles fueling up at the JB petrol stations. You can call them 'kiasu' ; call them this and that but to me they were just being smart!
The roads at the Malaysian Customs and Immigration checkpoint were dirty and had potholes waiting to trap any unsuspecting motorist who failed to notice them and have their car tires drop in to those potholes, damaging the alignment of their vehicles.
Isn't this embarrassing for us?
Aren't Malaysian Government officials passing through these dilapidated and sorry looking checkpoints?
Doesn't anyone care?
The embarrassing scenario continues right through to our part of the Causeway. Dirt and trash litter the sides of our causeway up to the middle part where Singapore controls their side.
Voila! No more litter, no more trash. It's as if everything changes right from the middle part of the causeway.
You immediately come into the land of discipline and order.
Everything and everyone seems to be a role model of good work ethics and adhering to a strict and applaudable standard of efficiency.
You will see able bodied, smartly dressed, automatic weapons toting young Singaporean soldiers and border guards, vigilantly monitoring each and every vehicle and its occupants driving up into the republic.
All sorts of cameras monitor and scrutiny each automobile and transport coming in. The number plates of every vehicle is scanned and flashed onto a large rectangular display board, recording each entry of vehicles arriving.
You sense the total contrast in standards of law enforcement between our lackadaisical JB Malaysian side and the impressive Singaporean standards.
You can call me a bloody Singapore lover or whatever but damn..I really hope to see our nation emulate what the Singaporeans have done and are doing!
If Malaysians can just copy 20% of the Singaporeans work ethics and sense of commitment to their jobs, our country will improve by leaps and bounds as far as development is concerned.
But that will remain a dream because we are too damn proud to acknowledge what Singapore has achieved. We threaten to cut off water supply to the Singaporeans every time we have a misunderstanding with them or are caught in a tussle with them about land matters.
Don't just take my word for it. Go, make a trip down south of the peninsular and see how things are over there at the JB border checkpoints and then venture into the Republic of Singapore and get a taste of what we could enjoy and live in if only we can learn to emulate their working habits and lifestyles.
For all the developments that Singapore has achieved in terms of infrastructure and raising the standards of their lifestyles, I found some minor areas which the Government of Singapore need to give serious and immediate attention to especially with their ongoing campaign to woo Malaysians to visit their republic.
Singaporean toilets do not have washing facilities for Muslims and Asians. There are no bidets. No taps with hoses for us to wash up after using the toilets.
It may seem to be a trifle matter but for Muslims from Malaysia who are used to have running water to cleanse ourselves after relieving ourselves, it is a major discomfort and annoyance.
I asked a few Singaporean Malays as to how they handled such a lack of water hoses or bidets in the public restrooms?
They answered that they try their level best to hold it in till they reach their homes or if they really have to go, to resort to buying bottled mineral water to use in cleansing themselves!!!
Really inconvenient I must say!
Singapore Tourism Board. If you folks are reading this, please take note of this matter. It may not seem that serious to you but to us Malaysians, we love to wash up with water. Toilet paper might be handy but nothing beats using water! :D
Another major problem.
The 'Halal' aspect.
One example. Attempt to dine at IKEA Singapore.
I had to forego eating the famous Swedish meatballs at IKEA Singapore Tampines dining area for the food there wasn't halal. You need to seriously rectify this matter because we can't eat food that is not halal.
I saw the sign showing 'Chicken and Pork' with no segregation of the food offered for sale there.
IKEA Damasara had a similar non halal problem before due to the supplier's non conformity with the standards for halal food by our JAKIM @ Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia.
IKEA Malaysia however recognized the tremendous damage to their company's operations if they didn't rectify the halal food issue and they promptly acted upon it.
They carried out the 'samak purification' procedures on their entire kitchen area and cooking utensils plus dishes and ensured that the meatballs and sausages were supplied from halal vendors.
Today, Malaysians eat at IKEA Malaysia with full confidence and business is booming for IKEA there.
Surely you have Muslims in Singapore?
How come that MUIS @ Majlis Ugama Islam of Singapore failed to act upon this serious breach of social responsibility there?
If Singapore can solve these two main areas of discomfort for us Malaysian Muslims, you'd find our arrivals to holiday in your garden island republic increase tremendously!
It's not really that hard to accomplish compared to the outstanding achievements that you have done to your excellent island!
Water hoses or bidets in your restrooms and set up the 'Halal' requirements in all your food courts and restaurants.
We would be happy to visit Singapore again and again as we please.
Success is to be shared and enjoyed by all of us. Malaysians and Singaporeans are joined by our common roots and values.
We Malaysians can learn from you as to how best to develop our nation up to the best standards of government and lifestyles as what you have achieved and you Singaporeans can learn from us as to how to make life comfortable for us Muslims and other Asian traditional values appreciating people.
Through teamwork we strive ; higher productivity and sensitivity to each other's needs will see us thrive.
Don't you agree?
Majulah Singapura dan Majulah Malaysia! Bersama sama menuju bahagia!