BRUNEI’S No 1 Social blogger-cum-journo/photographer, Rano Iskandar, was spot on when he posted about his junket-trip to the recent Sepang F1 Grand Prix in Malaysia: “..However, we managed to access to the upper level since the security was pretty lax. The other side of the grandstand even less security check points at the gate after a few laps of the race. So any Tom Dick and Harry can actually enter the grandstand without a pass.”
I suppose the security factor would be a cap in the feather for neighbouring-rival host of F1 international race, Singapore, aside from its most successful debut to have come up with the ‘Night Formula One Grand Prix Race’ last year. However, the Mas Selamat saga (the Houdini of escapee Indonesian terrorist from a Singapore prison who’s still at large) is still very much the sticking issue in the supposedly-tight security system on the island-republic! 😉
I once tried and tested the much-appraised and highly-regarded Singaporean security plausibility in 2003. While attending a business exhibition, which was held on the Fourth Floor of the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, I purposely left my heavy baggage (having arrived straight from a midnight express train journey from Kuala Lumpur that morning) under an unattended counter in the Ground Floor lobby. Then I rushed up the escalator to attend the Official Opening and subsequent free breakfast, just in the nick of time! 🙂
Having filled my empty stomach (after a long, tiring 10-hour train trip just to save from a costly one-night stay in a Singaporean hotel!), I then walked about the exhibition venue and trade booths for a good two hours. I almost forgot my left baggage on the ground floor! What reminded me of it was when I saw that the complimentary left baggage storage area, specially prepared for participants, was actually located in one corner of the exhibition floor venue.
I quickly took the lift down to the Ground Floor to retrieve my baggage and lo and behold! Guess who had been frantically watching over my big bulky travelling bag? You guessed it… a couple of security guards with guns on their waists. So after some apologies and excuses, excuses, I was left the hook with a yellow card-like warning only. But come to think of it, within that 2-hour time-frame, anything could’ve happened (if I had been a terrorist, that is!).
Speaking of Security lax, I strongly recommend the three or four key ‘Homeland Security’ governmental agencies involved in border controls to tighten up their acts to cover lots of flaws and obvious ‘screw-loose loopholes’.
A case in point is the Sungai Tujoh border crossing between Belait (Brunei Darussalam) and Miri (Malaysia). Any ‘terrorist’ could always come in and out, entering and exiting without any passport at all. How so, you may ask?
Let me just try to walk the Internal Security Department; Immigration Department; Customs and Excise and the Royal Brunei Police Force respectively through this STEP by STEP passport-less travel to and from Brunei – Miri and back:
1. Share a car with at least two other people
2. Be the driver until the car almost reach Brunei Customs Check-point in Sungai Tujuh
3. Get out of the car and let a new driver take over the wheel
4. Walk in haste (as if in toilet-bound desperation and exasperation!) toward the Public Loo past both Customs booth and Immigration counter in casual manner
5. Once you are in the Mens’ Room, wait till the car has passed through Immigration and voila! Re-enter the car at your own risk… no passport chop, no less! 😦
6. And likewise in the Malaysian side of the border, a passenger could simply get off the car and just walk toward the Customs’ counter without the Malaysian Immigration staff knowing it or even aware of my existence! 😦
7. Pretend that you’re waiting for Customs formalities to be completed but sit and wait for car to pass through the Immigration booth (again no need to stamp passport!) 😦
8. After some R & R in Miri Resort City, back to the same old routine and almost identical steps on how to go in and out of the country through passport-less travel (illegally, of course). So there, you have it, my free security consultancy! 😉 I really could be the James Bond of Brunei, couldn’t I? 😛
The fact remains, security standards in Brunei Darussalam are still pretty much ‘laissez-faire’ and there are lots of room for improvement! (Of course, for ordinary folks like us — the less security hassle, the better).