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Friday, March 17, 2017

Chaos at consular mobile service

KOTA KINABALU - About 500 Filipinos who gathered yesterday outside a hall in Inanam for their turns to apply for renewal of travel documents and obtain other services provided by a consular team from the Philippine Embassy allegedly became unruly when they were forced to wait for hours under the scorching sun.

Two policemen arrived at Dewan KPYSB in Taman Bakti Ikhlas, Inanam about 9.15am when the situation threatened to degenerate into chaos as many among the big crowd allegedly refused to budge when told by a consular official to queue up properly.

“There was no system at all. I think if the consular team had anticipated this situation, they could have made better preparation for things to go smoothly,” said Vun (not his real name) who had accompanied his Filipino wife to renew her passport.

“They were late in setting up their service area and they did not care to make any preparation for people to queue up, and I think that was what caused the chaos,” he said.

Vun claimed that the person in charge of the operation had threatened to pack up and leave if the crowd did not disperse and reorganise themselves.

“We would only accept 130 applicants per day but if they do not line up properly, we will just pack up and leave,” said the person who is believed to be a consular official.

Vun also expressed disappointment with the consular official who he claimed did not even bother to dress appropriately to better represent the embassy.

“The person in charge was wearing casual clothes … a polo T-Shirt and jeans. There was no name tag or anything at all to distinguish him from anyone else,” he said.

“I think he should have appeared in an attire that better suited his authority so that at least if he needed to speak, the crowd would perhaps pay more attention to him.

“When I asked him why there were no barriers like those at airports for people to queue at the counters, he said ‘it would be pointless to set them up because the people are so unruly’.

Vun and his wife eventually decided to leave while hoping that the consular team would be better prepared in the future to avoid another chaotic situation.

“We had no choice but to leave rather than waste any more of our time. We may come back tomorrow or next week, but there is no guarantee that things will be different because when I spoke to the ‘consular’ he seemed uninterested in my suggestions.

“In fact, he blamed the people for failing to organise themselves outside the hall. Even when I suggested that perhaps it was his people who should have taken better steps to ensure a proper system for people to queue, he still insisted it would be pointless,” Vun lamented.

The policemen tried to handle the situation by asking the crowd to exit the premises and stand outside the gate, but those who stood at the entrance to the hall refused to give way for fear of losing their chance in obtaining the services.

Some of these people had begun to arrive at the venue as early as 4am. Some came from as far away as Sandakan hoping to renew their passports or travel documents.

The Philippine Embassy is said to be charging RM288 for passport renewal, RM432 for replacement of lost passport and RM720 for ePassport.

The consular team operates from 8am to 4pm and will take a break on Sunday before resuming their services until Friday, March 24. - BP

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