APRIL 19 — As a young airman in the British Royal Air Force in 1965, I was working as an air dispatcher (winchman for Westland Helicopters in Malaysia and Borneo. This was during what was known as the Indonesian Incursions.
The sorties involved RAAF Butterworth, RAF Kuching and RAF Labuan. We transported Malaysian and British troops and on a number of occasions, rescued Malaysian troops from the Borneo jungle.
This was an exciting time for a young airman and British/Malaysian lifetime friendships were formed. Many times we received emotional “terima kasih” from equally young Malaysian soldiers.
Sadly, a number of these brave Malaysian soldiers are no longer with us.
Fast forward to the mid-1970s
I was a co-founder of Westminster Travel in Hong Kong.
A travel agency and tour company that catered to the expat population and their families in Hong Kong.
The first holiday destination that we offered was a “Malaysia Fly Drive” wanting others to discover the delights of travelling and seeing the real Malaysia that I had fallen in love with.
Between 1974 and 2000, some 250,000 families had taken this holiday on Malaysia Airlines from Hong Kong.
A number of years in a row we received Tour Operator of the Year plaques from MAS and a grateful Malaysia.
Westminster is still going strong (trading on the Australian Stock exchange) as HK’s largest travel company.
They still send tourists from HK and mainland China offices some 20 years after we sold the company.
Fast forward to 2015
As a now retired pensioner, I came back to Malaysia for three months with my wife during the UK winter.
Something that has become an annual pilgrimage since then for us to the island of Penang.
The same year that commemorated 50 years since 1965 and my time in the RAF in Malaysia. I was awarded the GSM medal accompanied by a letter from Malaysia, a grateful nation.
With the death of my mother, we then found out that my uncle had been The Attorney General of British
Borneo prior to the formation of Malaysia. He was Datuk Seri Peter Mooney, a famous lawyer in Malaysia, but sadly he had died before we had a chance to meet him.
So Malaysia had been in my blood without my realising.
Fast forward to the present day
We arrived on March 9, 2020 a few days before anyone realised the impact of Covid-19 on the world.
We have been allowed to stay here on an expired social pass by the grace of the Malaysian government, until the end of the MCO.
We have felt very safe here as the Malaysian government has done a good job in keeping the coronavirus under control.
There are currently several thousand British, Commonwealth, European and American tourists stranded in safe Malaysia. We are paying our way without being a burden on the Malaysian economy.
The press reported on April 12 as follows: Malaysian Immigration Department has instructed all the foreigners with expired social visit passes to leave the country before April 21.
Giving eight days’ notice at a time when few airlines are flying and many countries are in lockdown.
For those unable to leave immediately, we can apply for a special pass to remain up to 30 days by visiting the Immigration Department, with a letter from the embassy, bank statement, flight ticket, proof of accommodation, copy of passport and fee.
Some people have tried this and been turned down and so will become illegal overstayers.
I have a favour to ask those in authority: can we please stay until Covid-19 is a bit more under control in the world.
Many governments have allowed Malaysian tourists, students and visitors to remain in the country they were stranded in as a place of safety.
As I approach my 74th birthday next month, I am hoping to see my 75th next year in old age I now have an autoimmune disease that puts me in the “at risk” category.
Please consider a couple of extra months stay for a military veteran that has done a bit for Malaysia over the years, showing the meaning of Malaysia a Grateful Nation.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.