MIRI: Massive traffic congestion along the Sarawak-Brunei border, 35km north of here, somewhat marred what was otherwise a sunny and bright Chinese New Year celebration in this resort city.
Although Assistant Communications Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin was in a joyful mood to usher in the Year of the Horse, he also felt sad to see the bottleneck at Sungai Tujuh Customs and Immigration checkpoint throughout the first three days of the lunar new year, which spoiled the overall festive mood.
“I have been getting calls, emails and messages from people wanting to cross the border but were been caught in the terrible congestion that stretched over several kilometres from the Brunei side and lasted for hours.
“Apparently, there were not enough clearance counters being opened by the state Immigration Department. The immigration checkpoint on the Miri side have 22 lanes, but only four were open.
“How can this happen? Why are there only four officers on duty at such an important time of the year whereas tens of thousands of people cross the border everyday?
“Many travellers had to turn back because they could not endure hours of waiting. Several of them missed connecting flights at Miri Airport.
“Many came from Brunei while some were from Limbang and Lawas,” he said, adding that he had informed Sarawak Immigration director Datuk Robert Lian to investigate the matter.
Last year, the Sungai Tujuh checkpoint registered 2.98 million entry-exit turnover, of which around 30,000 were recorded during the weekends.
“Only last month I visited Sungai Tujuh and asked for more Immigration personnel to be deployed there during crucial times — and yet this happened.”
Lee was hosting a visit by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud here on the second day of Chinese New Year.
Apart from this, the Senadin assemblyman also visited friends and colleagues from SUPP, as well as several poor families in Tudan.
Meanwhile, former and current SUPP leaders here appeared to be having a joyful New Year, letting go of the party’s internal issues for a while.
SUPP president Tan Sri Peter Chin welcomed Taib at his house in Luak Bay on the first day, while former deputy chief minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan and his wife Datuk Lorna Chan were gracious hosts.
To SUPP information chief Datuk Sebastian Ting, the celebration this year was a joyful one.
“Lots of friends and members of the public came, taking the opportunity to meet us (former and current SUPP leaders).
“We have people of all ages, races and religions coming non-stop to the open house events held by us.This is the most joyful thing about festivities in Miri, and in Sarawak generally.
“Everybody joins in and enjoys the festive mood,” he said, adding that he was happy to see the strong support for SUPP leaders from the people.