Last week, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein made a public call for the Immigration Department to review the categories of applications heading overseas that can be granted permission directly, without having to apply through ‘MyTravelPass’.
Currently, Malaysia remains in an international ‘lockdown’ mode where not only are our borders closed to foreigners, Malaysian residents are also not allowed to leave the country without ‘valid’ reasons, and are subjected to ‘MyTravelPass’ approvals.
We have received numerous complaints of the bureaucratic process of ‘MyTravelPass’ applications as well as the somewhat arbitrary process of approving applications. Many have had to undergo the stress, anxiety and uncertainty of rescheduling trips or worse bearing unnecessary travel expenses due to the application process.
Currently, those who have just been offered a job or entry into an educational institution, are attending meetings or business affairs, and those participating in exhibitions, training or competitions abroad may be approved with an official application, supported with a letter from the relevant regulatory Agency. Other categories are emergency affairs concerning immediate family members due to death or illness, partner visa holder and those participating in humanitarian/religious aid missions.
Travel abroad for all other reasons are barred entirely.
We call upon the National Security Council to go beyond what the Defence Minister has called for. The Immigration Department should not just ‘review’ the categories of applications but should scrap the ‘MyTravelPass’ scheme entirely as it has outlived its usefulness.
‘MyTravelPass’ was implemented at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic where travel abroad was deemed highly risky, especially when local infection rates were then extremely low and no vaccines were available.
However, the circumstances have changed dramatically as the risk of foreign-borne infections are today far lower than local infections, which have been widespread. Based on yesterday’s 15,759 infections, only 27 or less than 0.2% were imported cases. In addition, these imported cases were ‘controlled’ due to the stringent quarantine process.
Moreover, vaccination rates have improved dramatically in Malaysia (nearly 60% fully vaccinated) and many other destination countries (UK 67%, USA 56%, Canada 70% etc.).
Hence, there’s absolutely no reason to restrict Malaysians, particularly those who have been fully vaccinated, from travelling overseas as long as they are permitted to enter the destination countries. Those travelling overseas will still be subjected to the required quarantine process upon their return to the country to prevent any imported infection from spreading locally.
Phasing out MyTravelPass is a critical component of Malaysia’s road to economic recovery as it will play a significant role in reviving our ailing travel industry – airlines, airports, travel agencies etc., which employs hundreds of thousands of workers.
It will also relieve our Immigration officials from the tedious task of processing the thousands of applications weekly and be redeployed to more productive and urgent tasks, particularly those related to the reopening of our economy in the coming weeks and months.
We hope that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri to expedite the phasing out of MyTravelPass immediately, as a critical step towards economic recovery in the battered travel economic sector.
Media Statement by Tony Pua, DAP National Publicity Secretary and Member of Parliament for Damansara.