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Separated by the Causeway

17 Sep 2020 / 11:40 H.

PETALING JAYA: It was near midnight one day in March when Andrea Chan realised that she would not be able to see her family due to the movement control order that came into effect to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Chan is among some 250,000 Malaysians who commute to Singapore daily from Johor Baru for work.

“I’ve been traveling daily for the past 10 years. I needed to make a decision on whether I should take leave or continue my work,” the financial analyst said.

“Everything happened so fast. I spoke to my superiors on how to proceed, including having a place for me to stay. They were understanding of my situation.

“Eventually, I decided to stay with my family in Singapore,” she said.

Chan does not qualify for the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) and Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA), that started on Aug 17.

“This is because I’m a permanent resident (PR) here. I don’t need a long-term working pass,” she said.

The PCA allows Malaysia and Singapore citizens or permanent residents who hold long-term immigration passes for business and work purposes in the other country to enter that country for work.

The RGL, is for Malaysia and Singapore residents keen to do short-term travel of up to 14 days for essential business or official purposes.

Randy Lee, who works in Singapore, said the problems faced by Malaysians working in the republic are multi-fold.

“They need to go on unpaid leave to return to Malaysia, whether it is under PCA or not,” he told theSun.

“They run the risk of losing their jobs just to see their family. For Malaysians with Singapore PR status, they don’t qualify for the PCA, and are thus subjected to 14 days quarantine in Malaysia. It’s additional bureaucracy.

“(They have to choose) between their livelihood or being with their family,” he added.

Lee has initiated an online petition directed at the Singapore government called “Allow Spouse/ Dependent to enter Singapore/ Malaysia under Border Reopen Plan”, which has garnered more than 3,000 supporters.

“There is a group of spouses and dependents who may not be eligible ... those who have PR status but do not have long-term work passes.

“(Then there are those who) have their marriage registered in both countries, but do not possess a Long Term Social Visit Pass.

“We appeal to the respective governments to allow spouses and dependents of cross-country marriages to enter under the PCA to be with their family,” he added.

Chan said the quarantine time in both countries, and the different costs involved, added to their financial strain.

“Initially, I had breakdowns. The weekends are the worst because it’s the time that I would spend with my family.

It’s difficult for my three-year-old son. During our phone calls, he’d say: ‘When is mommy coming home?’”

She has since set her mind to be with her family in November.

“I want to celebrate Christmas with my children.

“There’s also our 11th anniversary in January. It’ll be unpaid leave because I’ve used all my annual leave during the earlier months of the recovery movement control order.

It’s a small price to pay. I just want to be with my family.”

On July 6, the Johor government said negotiations between Malaysia and Singapore would also include the issue of those commuting daily to the republic, Bernama reported.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Hasni Mohammad said the reopening of the border was an important step which could also help boost the tourism sector in the state.

Read this story on our iPaper: Separated by the Causeway

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