A question was raised in Parliament this week asking why there was a blanket ban that barred entry to foreign citizens from countries with over 150,000 Covid-19 cases, even though those people had valid visas to live here. Moreover, the ban was seemingly applicable whether or not they had even been in their home country recently! It was good to see some politicians suggesting that this ban is wrong.
Announced on September 7, the blanket ban caught a lot of expats by surprise. The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan, responded to the outcry by saying they do not want foreigners filling up hospital beds instead of Malaysians. That is understandable on its face, but then we question the logic of the final decision. Read on.
According to a report in The Sun newspaper, the Minister claimed that the government had obtained the latest information and used various measures to calculate the risk. Their conclusion was that there was higher risk of people having the disease if they were coming into Malaysia from countries with higher case numbers. Again, it is hard to question the logic of that.
However, to our mind there are some important considerations apparently being overlooked, with no explanations being offered.
Malaysians who are travelling from these countries are still being allowed to enter Malaysia freely, and that is the case even if they have left Malaysia and now live in one of those countries, but decide that they want to return. If there is truly a concern about large numbers returning with the disease, then arguably this group should be restricted from entering in some way.
Ten days after the decision to prevent foreigners from coming back into Malaysia from these countries, it was announced that expats with employment passes and even their maids could now come back to Malaysia. It was necessary for them to complete various forms to gain entry, but eventually they were allowed back in. Presumably, this was because various business chambers convinced the government that locking them out could damage the businesses which employ them.
However, there is no champion for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, and those who have MM2H visas and are citizens of the 23 banned countries are still being denied entry. Based on the comments made by the Minister, this is because they may end up taking hospital beds from Malaysians. We would like to know how many people with the MM2H visa are currently occupying Malaysian hospital beds and how many of the MM2H visa holders who already returned, before the ban, brought the disease with them. We suspect the number is very low and would not be surprised if it were very close to zero. MM2Hers are generally older, so they tend to be quite cautious about exposing themselves to the disease, unlike the many younger people who are being allowed in. We think banning these residents from entering is grossly unfair and find the decision very hard to understand.
We have even been advised that another group of MM2Hers have been banned from returning and that is those who left the country after March 18 when the first lockdown was announced. Most of them had no idea they would not be allowed back if they left.
It is particularly disturbing that, for the most part, these are people who have made Malaysia their home and came here at the invitation of the Malaysian government. Often they have no other home, so locking them out of the country is truly a hardship for them. Given their very small numbers, it is extremely hard to follow the logic of these decisions. Surely if you invite people to make their home in Malaysia, you should accept that they are entitled to the same access to hospital beds as Malaysians. In fact, promoting the quality of Malaysians hospitals and its robust healthcare system is one of the things used to encourage people to relocate here!
Our attempts to get answers are always ignored and it is seems the decision has been made not to fully explain the decisions being implemented. This is in sharp contrast to earlier years of the MM2H programme when our input was welcomed by the government and they would listen to our recommendations. They would also explain why certain decisions were made by the government.
Sadly, this comes on top of a series of actions this year which have negatively impacted the Malaysia My Second Home programme and in our view, caused it serious damage. A number of visa holders have told us they are convinced the government wants them to leave Malaysia, and quite a few have told us they plan to cancel their visa and exit the programme, and some have already done that. The programme is currently suspended for reasons which have never been fully explained and a revised programme is due to be announced soon, but no updates have been given, and again, our attempts to get clarification go unanswered.
It is not clear why the current government has decided to push this programme aside, given that it contributes billions of ringgit to the Malaysian economy, but perhaps in due course, someone will explain the reason. For our part, we feel that it is particularly unfortunate, as we have been promoting both Malaysia and the MM2H programme so heavily for the last 15 years and are now receiving so many messages from visa holders telling us of the serious problems they are experiencing being locked out of their homes.
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