Well-being of stranded Malaysians in Singapore a priority, says new Malaysian envoy

by BERNAMA / pic by AFP

SINGAPORE – The Malaysian High Commission in Singapore will continue monitoring the well-being of Malaysians stranded in the island nation, following the border movement restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020.

Malaysia’s newly appointed head of mission to Singapore Datuk Dr Azfar Mohamad Mustafar said the mission is ready to lend a helping hand beyond consular advice, until those affected could start commuting daily like they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Bernama, Azfar said he is aware that most Malaysians who previously commuted daily from Johor ended up stranded in the republic as they they had to choose between “life and livelihood” during this trying time.

“It is quite difficult for them. Being the bread winner of the family most of them decided to remain here and for the family to be in Malaysia. This is the choice that they had to make,” he said.

He said this when asked of his immediate task as the new High Commissioner to Singapore where many Malaysians have been stranded in the republic since March 2020 due to border restrictions to curb COVID-19 pandemic.

He acknowledged that some of the Malaysian setups here such as Maybank, CIMB and The Malaysian Association In Singapore (MASIS) have been very helpful towards Malaysians stranded in the republic.

Azfar also expressed his concern over the mental health of the affected Malaysians in the republic, especially when the matter has become a global phenomenon due to lockdowns and movement restrictions.

“They need to make sure that they are not keeping their problems to themselves, try to be in a group and not in isolation.

“We have to engage with Malaysians as some of them have not been able to go back to their homes in Johor for more than one year while some even up to two years.

“They only mostly communicate to their family through WhatsApp video calls but don’t even physically see their children. This separation affects everybody differently,” he said.

To a question whether the daily commuting routine will return this year as Singapore is moving towards the endemic stage for COVID-19, Azfar replied “it is quite pre-mature to talk on this at this point of time.”

He presumed once Singapore and particularly Johor have achieved the herd immunity, only then it will be possible to look into arrangements to allow people to commute daily or weekly.

Azfar, the 17th Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore, handed over his credential to Singapore President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (Aug 31) at Istana.

Earlier, on June 15, the Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had presented instruments of appointment to Azfar and 18 other new Malaysian envoys assigned to missions abroad.

Azfar had served as the ambassador to France prior to his current appointment to fill up the vacancy since mid 2020.