There's 20 meters of counters and 10 of waiting space in front of them. Why?
Well, nobody's fault but my own for procrastinating. Surprisingly, we found a parking bay not too far away from what looked like a very dilapidated Terminal 2 building. You know the usual signs. Broken windows. Uncleared litter and garbage. Overgrown grass. And floors that hadn't been cleaned since the last plane took off I think. We walked past the make-shift canteen. And past a glassed-off area the size of a low-cost housing flat bedroom (read minuscule) which I discovered housed the passport renewal machines. I asked the pegawai standing guard at the door what I should do.
"Have 2 passport photos, your passport and IC and money ready."
No need for forms?
"No need." I was impressed.
But of course I soon realised that my daughter did not have her passport photos ready.
"No problem, Encik. You can take photos inside." Wah!
Inside meant the main hall. When we went there we were confronted by the sight of scores of sweaty men, women and screaming children. All there to apply or renew passports I presume. There was an especially long queue which I eventually found out was the line for the photo-taking facility.
4 passport-sized photos for RM10 + 45 minutes
Well....it was a facility. It had one of those photo-taking machines that you find in archades and malls. You go in, sit down in front of a mirror, put in your coins, smile-FLASH-and you're done. But this photo-kiosk charged RM10 for 4 colour passport photos and was never meant to perform high volume photo reproductions. Hence the long queue which took 45 minutes from queue-up to photo-taking. This little example of entrepreneurial skill was manned by 2 rather disinterested silent, gentlemen who looked like off-duty pegawai from one government department or another. You know the type. I later found out that the photo-kiosk was operated by the cooperative of the Immigration Department. Good what. If only they'd see the potential and put in a little better maintenance or update the machine or even add additional equipment so the turnaround would be faster and more lucrative.
Halfway down the queue it occurred to me that I hadn't made it clear to the pegawai I asked that I was renewing my 10 year-old daughter's passport and not my own. So, leaving the young lady in the queue I went back to the machine room and asked again.
"Oh untuk budak ya? Then machine tak boleh. You go to counter #1, get a form, fill it up, make photocopy of your IC and photocopy of child's birth certificate and then submit at the counter."
Oh! So I go to Counter #1.
"Can have a borang please?"
I retreated to fill up the form. Brought it back to Counter #1
Oh must get gambar first. Back to standing in the photo queue. I go to get photocopies of my IC and my daughter's birth certificate.
The ever-present A4 notice on the window
The photo-copying service was also operated by the guys who were taking the photos. Which also was one of the reasons why the photo queue was so long. There's just so much a man can do la!
Finally, after 45 minutes we got the passport photos and the photocopies.
Back to Counter #1 and was told to wait for my number to be called to submit the renewal application. Another hour later our number came up. Yay! Rather short-lived joy.
"Where's your wife?", asked the counter lady. Wah! That's nice I thought. Maybe she's one of MamaMin's customers.
"She's at home," I replied.
"Where is your wife? Because you cannot renew your daughter's passport. Only your wife can do. Because your case under section (she quoted some number)."
I could feel my blood pressure rising. Stay calm.
"But I've spent almost half the day here only to be told that I cannot do this? How can la, Cik?"
Well, okay I wasn't exactly that calm la. But I was not rude. Tell you why later.
"Cannot. Only your wife can do."
"But why wasn't I told earlier so that I would not have wasted my time? Look, I am not angry with you ya Cik. It's just that your department's system sucks."
"If you like you can speak to my boss."
Yes I would like that very much. I was cleared through that magic door that separates the sweaty, screaming plebs from the powerful pegawai's. After waiting for less than a minute, some guy in civvies comes over, looked at my application, scrawls something on it, looks at me and says, "Ok?" and walks away. I don't know what his 'okay' was about although I detected a hint of resentment in his tone. Don't know why. I was nice what. Then the lesser pegawai ushers me through the magic door back into the sweaty masses.
"Okay, my boss say you can pay now but your wife has to come and collect the passport together with your daughter. Now you wait for your number then pay."
And so we waited another half hour to be called to the payment counter. I paid the dues and got a receipt and was told that the passport will be ready for collection in 2 hours time. But what the lady didn't say was that the counter closes at 4.30 and the 2 hours meant the passport would be ready at 5pm. And so my wife will have to make a trip there tomorrow to get through the final phase of the Malaysian child passport renewal process. No wonder Malaysian passports are so valuable on the black market. It takes a lot of effort and time to make one.
What I want to say before I end this rant is that the officers of the Jabatan Imigresen in Terminal 2 that I met this day, except for the 'boss', were friendly, smiling and genuinely helpful. And I salute them for doing their jobs in that kind of environment. The office air-conditioning system was not working.
Hi-tech cooling system for the over-worked photo machine
It was dirty and badly maintained. Broken chairs, wet floors, peeling wallpaper, uncleared rubbish. And the department system sucks big time.
A big TERIMA KASIH to the counter staff of Jabatan Imigresen Terminal 2 Subang.
I think you all should write a long letter to the minister of home affairs and tell him about your working conditions. He probably doesn't know and that's why he's spending time and money instead on catching people for sedition on the Internet. Tell him la that maybe if he helps you all improve your delivery system there might not be seditious writings on the Internet. Right?
Oh there is one more thing. Have you ever wondered why Malaysian government departments service counters are always designed width-wise? A long row of counters. But a very short waiting space in front of the counters. All of them are like that. LCCT, Johor 2nd Link Immigration, Terminal 2 Immigration...
If you know a lot of people are going to be queuing you make lots of space in front of the counters, right? It's not rocket science what.