Monday, April 16, 2012

Use discretion at immigration checks

I met a Malaysian lady who had migrated and lived in UK for several years. She related her experience going through security check at Singapore airport. She had a lipstick which was detected at the screening gate. She had to go through a lot of hassle over this matter.

She said, "I left Heathrow Airport with this lipstick and they did not give me any trouble over it. Heathrow has many times the passengers compared to Singapore and had to deal with bigger security threats. The security officers were able to identify what was important, and what was not. Why did Singapore give so much trouble over a lipstick, which clearly was quite innocent. Couldn't the officer exercise some discretion?"

I agreed with her. There is a tendency in Singapore to follow the books blindly, without exercising any discretion or common sense. This is a part of our culture that needs to be corrected. Someone called it the "kiasu attitude". It is quite a serious weakness.

1 comment:

Vincent Sear said...

I think it's not the airports or security staff thereof, it depends on the security alert level which by security, won't be made public except among the security staff.

I've had many pleasant trips across airports around the world and some cumbersome ones, but I co-operated fully to make it less cumbersome since with police experience, I should understand.

For example, I happened to be traveling from Singapore to Seattle during the peak Mas Selamat escape crisis. I was grilled, screened and search fully by a S/Sgt. I understand, a lone young-to-mid age man traveling alone automatically fits suspect list as potential abettor even if you don't look Malay or Muslim.

Transit point at Narita airport, the Japanese customs and police searched me all over again. They had the faxes and by one glance I could tell, Changi airport faxed to the Japanese my screening data and requested them to search me again to make it double sure.

I just smiled and co-operated without complaint, just about 15 minutes of delay on each side. They arigato me (thanked me) and waved me on after they were done.

The lipstick case reminds of an old story to happened to a friend of mine who was with San Francisco Police. It looked an innocent lipstick alright, but at the height of security alert, he twisted the lipstick all the way up the tube. Below it revealed two bullets. That wasn't an airport case. It happened in a city tax board federal building.

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