MIRI: The Immigration, Customs and Quarantine checkpoint at Sarawaks boundary with Brunei in Sungai Tujuh, Kuala Baram, needs to be better equipped to handle the sudden influx of visitors from the sultanate, said an elected representative.
Last week, Immigration and Customs staff manning the checkpoint were caught off-guard by an increase in the flow of vehicles crossing the boundary, resulting in a massive traffic congestion.
Senadin state assemblyman Lee Kim Shin, who was inundated by calls from those affected, said the problem would recur unless immediate remedial measures were implemented.
I have received complaints from Bruneians and locals who had to queue up for up to two hours on Sept 24, a public holiday in Brunei.
There was a sudden surge in the number of vehicles, rising to about 8,000 within six hours from 7am to 1pm that day, and the four lanes at the checkpoint were filled to capacity.
The checkpoint staff, he said, tried their best to cope and opened up an additional lane to ease the congestion.
However, three additional lanes are needed to handle any sudden inflow, he said earlier this week after a site visit to the area.
Lee, who is also political secretary to the Chief Minister and a Sarawak Tourism Board member, was concerned that such problems would arise again in view of the coming festivals such as Hari Raya and Christmas as well as the school holidays.
Urgent attention is needed here as Sungai Tujuh handles a million travellers annually from Brunei and Sabah, and also from Limbang and Lawas in Sarawak.
This sort of problem will not reflect well on our image, he said, pointing out that the state government and tourism agencies had put in a lot of effort to bring in tourists as this year was Visit Sarawak Year.
Lee, who had spoken to state Immigration director Robert Lian about the issue, also expressed concern over the checkpoint building.
Several parts of the building, such as the roof and supporting structure, were in a bad condition and in need of instant repair, he said.
The state Immigration Department, he added, must maintain the checkpoint facilities at Sungai Tujuh, add entry lanes and beef up manpower for crucial periods.
A new bridge across the Kuala Baram River had already been built to facilitate entry of visitors from Brunei but the checkpoint area must also be improved, he said.
Sungai Tujuh is the only land exit point connecting Sarawak to Brunei, Limbang, Lawas and Sabah.
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