After dropping Danial off at work, I texted my cousin to let him know that I was on my way to the Immigration office in Subang to see his friend there. I knew how to get there because that was where I went the last time to renew my passport. The one that was now stolen. It was part of the old Subang airport and had been turned into a branch of the Immigration Department.
My cousin called while I was on the way there to tell me that his friend had texted him to say that he had to attend an urgent meeting and did not know what time he would finish. He suggested I waited at Mum’s place and he would let me know when his friend became available. I was only a few minutes away from the place so I told him I would go anyway and wait there. Mum had a doctor’s appointment that morning so no one would be at home.
When I got there I was surprised that it was so empty. Usually the car park would be packed tight but now it was empty and the place looked dead. Then I saw a banner.
They had moved in December 2010 to a new office in Kelana Jaya, about 20 minutes away! Oh dear.
My cousin was as surprised as I was. His friend obviously hadn’t said anything about it to him. Not an issue. I had my trusted Garmin GPS so I easily found the new Subang Immigration Office at Plaza Glomac. Parking there was a breeze – nothing like any immigration office I had ever been too.
I went into the main hall of the branch and it looked like any regular Immigration office. Lots of people. An electronic queue system that worked. And a high noise level. The place buzzed with activity like any government office in Malaysia. Busy..busy..busy. I decided to go to the lady manning the information desk and told her who I was there to see. She made a call upstairs and told me the gentleman was out but I could go upstairs and talk to one of the officers there. Upstairs was where they dealt with lost passports.
Strange – as far as Malaysian Immigration was concerned, there seemed to be no differentiation between "lost" and "stolen" passports. Whether you lost or misplaced your passport, it was considered "lost". If you were robbed at gunpoint, it’s considered "lost". If someone stole your bag right under your nose, it’s considered "lost". There must be some wisdom there.
Anyway, I made my way upstairs. The was a counter with a number of computer terminals, a waiting area and two rooms labelled "Investigation Room". I wondered what the rooms were for. At the counter, I spoke to an officer called Mr Abdul (not his real name) and told him I was there to see my cousin’s friend. He told me the same thing – that he was at a meeting and he didn’t know when he would be back.
But I was at the right place to apply for a new passport so he gave me a couple of forms to fill. One was the official form to apply for a new passport and he had ticked the box "lost" for me. The second form was a questionnaire about the lost passport and was very similar to the form I had filled at the Malaysian embassy in Madrid. Lots of information about my passport, when I last saw it, exactly how it was "lost", what I did to recover it, was it likely to be found, how many passports I had been issued before, how many times I had lost my passport etc. It was quite tedious. I thought I could fill them up and submit the forms today but on the back page of the questionnaire I saw a "Statutory Declaration" where I had to summarise how I "lost" the passport, and sign it in front of a Commissioner for Oaths.
Oops. That meant the forms cannot go in today.
But that was not the worst news. A guy had come in and was talking to the lady next to Mr Abdul. He was complaining that no one had told him it would take ONE MONTH for him to get his new passport after it was stolen. He had a ticket to travel somewhere and needed his passport quickly.
What????? Oh my God. One month? Really? No way…no frikkin’ way. I needed my passport soon if not today. Real soon.
I asked Mr Abdul. One month? Really? I thought passports were issued the same day of application now. I thought the Immigration Department was one of the most customer-conscious government departments in Malaysia, what with opening their offices all week including on Sundays.
He said "lost" passports are not treated the same way as first-time passports or expired passports. They needed to be investigated etc etc.
I kind of argued with him. What was there to be investigated? That was the job of the police. I had a police report lodged with the police where it was stolen – in Spain. My passport was gone. What was there to be investigated? I was courteous though more than a little bit irate. I couldn’t understand it. I felt he didn’t understand that I was the victim here. It’s was like I was the bad guy now.
Anyway he said that the government took this very seriously because there were syndicates out there whose work involved buying or stealing passports and selling them on the black market. I had heard before that Malaysian passports fetched almost USD8000 on the black market. But I argued with him. (Why not eh?) How is that possible these days? Our passports come with a microchip inside the passport cover. Our photos are no longer pasted in the passports. They were scanned into the page. It can’t be easy to forge our passports now. Well, I didn’t get an answer to that question. But he did pick up a pile of papers to show me the amount of Malaysian passport losses in Rome which were currently being investigated. The work of a syndicate there, he said.
Later, a friend told me that if Ah Chong had no money to send his son to college, all he needed to do was find one of these syndicates and "sell" his passport to them for USD15000 or something like that!
I continued to tell Mr Abdul that I needed my passport urgently and that I was supposed to see this gentleman who was the friend of my cousin who used to be a senior official in the Immigration Department. He said, "Well, your friend couldn’t do anything. It takes one month to investigate. You would have to write a letter of appeal to the State Immigration Director. He’s the only one with the authority to dispense with the one month period." He gave me the the name of the Director I had to write an appeal letter to.
I sighed a heavy sigh. A really heavy sigh.
I felt blessed that I had the “wasta” which, as far as I know, wherever you were, often helped to reduce the "bureaucratic effect" but obviously I wasn’t in that channel right now. I was talking to the wrong person, I think.
So I took the two forms I had to fill up and a check list with documents I had to attach with my application which Mr Abdul explained in detail to me.
He told me that once all the documentation was complete, I should submit my application for my new passport and then wait for the application to be approved (in one month).
Of course I spoke to my cousin later and he said not to worry. Just get all the documents ready and see his friend tomorrow. He WILL be able to help me get my passport as fast as possible.
So, hopeful that tomorrow would be a brighter day, I went home and started filling up all the forms and wrote out the statutory declaration. I tried to find a Commissioner for Oaths nearby our apartment but there wasn’t any. Thankfully I still had the phone number of the Commissioner for Oaths I had discovered when I needed a statutory declaration for Mum a couple of years ago. She had moved too but it was easy to find her. It was a five-minute job – I gave her my identity card, signed the declaration in front of her, she attested to it, put her chop and it was official. Later at home, I printed the copies of all the documents they wanted.
At night, I decided that I should probably write an appeal letter to the Director IN CASE they asked for it when I submitted the documents tomorrow. I printed out copies of my marriage certificate and various documents to prove my husband lived and worked in Kuwait and prayed everything would be sufficient for me to get my passport ASAP.
We’ll find out tomorrow. Mañana. Buqra. Today wasn’t wasted at all. Despite the fact that I couldn’t see the right person, I was thankful that I went there. I now had all the right documentation and tomorrow will be a breeze. Inshallah.
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