New rules leave many Malaysians stranded here
With only 400 allowed to return to Malaysia daily, many are stuck here, separated from their families
Six weeks after leaving home in Johor, he learnt that his mother, who is in her 70s, might have breast cancer.
Mr Syukor Bakar, a pest control technician, 26, wanted to rush home from Singapore but could not do so immediately because of Malaysia's movement control order (MCO).
It allows only 400 Malaysians to return to their country daily, leaving several thousand in a predicament here.
Mr Syukor, who managed to return last week, had been staying in a Housing Board flat rented by his employer with three Malaysian colleagues since the MCO was enforced on March 18.
His parents had told him they were unwell and doctors believed his mother may have breast cancer.
The family's sole breadwinner told The New Paper last Tuesday: "I am very worried about them. My boss gave me two choices - stay here and work or go back on unpaid leave. It was difficult but family first. I must go back."
Malaysians like Mr Syukor, who wish to return home from Singapore via the Causeway or Second Link, must apply for an entry permit at least two days before their departure date, through the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore.
It issues only 400 such permits daily for the land crossing.
Johor Health and Environment Committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said the new measures, which do not affect air travellers, were implemented last Monday to regulate the flow of returning Malaysians.
The situation may now change after Malaysia's move last Friday to cut short its partial shutdown by more than a week in a bid to revive its economy.
Earlier, Malaysian Association in Singapore president Aarathi Arumugam said many of those hoping to return home were put on unpaid leave by their Singaporean employers.
Mr Syukor returned to Johor last Friday after being granted approval from the Malaysian High Commission for his entry permit.
He described the period between applying for the permit on April 25 and receiving a response last Thursday as a waiting game.
Some Malaysians TNP spoke to said they were caught in a bind by new restrictions and the extension of existing measures.
TNP understands that more than 3,000 applications, to be approved on a first-come, first-served basis, had been submitted as of last Wednesday morning, and the Malaysian High Commission had deployed more employees to cope with the high volume of inquiries.
A couple who declined to be named said it has been more than 40 days since they saw their three-year-old son, whose birthday was coming up.
They came here in March for work, expecting to return to Malaysia by the end of last month to see their son, who was left with the wife's mother.
The wife said: "We decided not to apply for the entry permit because people online said they have been kept waiting and responses have been slow. We will book a flight instead."
Also stuck in limbo is a business owner and father of two, Mr Veken Woon, 37, and his family, who arrived in Singapore seven weeks ago to visit his mother-in-law in hospital.
After she died of cancer about three weeks ago, the two MCO extensions left his family stranded here as his father-in-law is an Indonesian citizen.
Foreigners not employed under essential services are not allowed to enter Malaysia during this period.
Mr Woon has appealed to the Malaysian authorities for his father-in-law to be allowed to enter Malaysia with his family.
"How long can we go on like this? We are homesick, and we have no idea when this will end."