The GOOD NEWS that we have been eagerly awaiting. Malaysia Hall, in London, welcomes ALL Malaysians and non-Malaysians*. NO need to show passport or I.C.

The good news that we have been waiting for, has finally come.

ALL Malaysians and non-Malaysians (*provided they are ACCOMPANIED by a Malaysian), are most WELCOME to makan at Malaysia Hall. 

The good news is that Malaysians need NOT show their passports or identity card at the entrance. Yey…yey…yey…..

Great news for Malaysians living in London who desire some real home cooked Malaysian food, Malaysians who just want good food, Malaysians who cannot cook the full repertoire of Malaysian food (like me and only know how to eat!) , Malaysians who are tourists in London, and for the “foreigners” it is a good introduction to Malaysian hospitality and makan…

Hooray….who wants to carry their passports or IC around, because when we drop it or leave it somewhere by accident or are pickpocketed (especially in Bayswater), and the passport is nicked, the hassle of making a police report, form filling and the trip to the High Commission (for Commonwealth countries) or the Embassy can be weary, long-winded and depressing. 

Terima kaseh

Thank you to all those who made this change possible.

Now, let us get on with being Malaysian and do what we do best….to mix… and mingle… and makan… and yik yak at Malaysia Hall.

Let us give the canteen operator at Malaysia Hall our continued patronage. She has probably gone to hell and back, with the previous silly ruling. 

Whoever cooked up the silly ruling is pathetic, because it was unnecessary, time-wasting and undiplomatic. 

Actually, the ruling was scrapped last February, but trust Malaysia Hall officials for FAILING to tell us. Spoil-sports!

Below, is the article which I wrote about ‘that’ silly ruling at Malaysia Hall.

The moral of the story is, if you have something worth fighting for, go for it. We must all stand-up to bullies.

Red herrings and sour-grapes at London’s Malaysia Hall Canteen

To eat nasi lemak, or kueh, in Malaysia Hall, one has to present one’s passport.

Last October, visitors who wish to patronise the Malaysia Hall Canteen (known as the Canteen), in London, were made to show their passport or IC.

For those who are unaware, the Canteen in Queensborough Terrace, in the Bayswater area of London, is considered by many Malaysians to be a “home, away from home”. It is located in the basement of the Malaysian Students Department (MSD), and is a place where one can satisfy one’s cravings for authentic Malaysian food, at affordable prices.

The Canteen is not The Ritz, but Malaysian students who are homesick, and on a tight budget, eat there. So do Malaysian residents who work and live in England. They also bring their non-Malaysian friends, and hordes of  Malaysian tourists, visit the Canteen, to experience true Malaysian hospitality and comforting Malaysian food.

One could have nasi lemak or roti canai for breakfast, nasi campur for lunch and a selection of kueh for dessert, and still not break the bank. One could make oneself at home, and eat with one’s fingers. Water and rose syrup are free.

The Canteen is also a hit with Singaporeans and Bruneians, and the surau is popular with Muslims, who join the Malaysian congregation for Friday prayers, then stay for lunch.

The easy-going atmosphere ended, last October. The first Malaysians knew of the ruling, was when a few Malaysians, who went to eat at the Canteen, were turned away. They vented their fury on social media. The trickle grew into a torrent.

In the past, one could go through the metal grille, at the front of the building, down one flight of stairs and into the Canteen, in the basement.

Since the new directive, Malaysians who merely want to eat, have to use the main entrance several metres away, and then make their way along a rabbit warren of staircases and narrow corridors, down to the basement Canteen. One could easily get lost.

Does one require a Passport or IC, to go for a makan? Perhaps, one ought to ask for the real reason behind this directive. There are a few hypotheses.

One. Security.

Following a public outcry on social media, the Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, told the Star that security had to be tightened after frequent incidents of the theft of passports.

The revelation took many by surprise. No-one, including the regular patrons of the Canteen, was aware that there had been any thefts of passports, at Malaysia Hall.

The restaurant operator, when contacted was also in the dark. She said, “I, of all people should know about these passport thefts, as it affects my business premises, my business and my reputation.

“If there are thefts, I want to keep my eyes open, and demand an upgrade in security.  Our Canteen is open from early morning to late at night. I, or a member of my staff, would have known about any thefts. We heard nothing. Malaysians will not keep things like this secret, and would tell others to be vigilant.

“I asked the former head of immigration in the Malaysian High Commission in London, before he was posted back to Malaysia. He said that most Malaysians had their passports stolen in the tourist spots of Oxford Street, Bayswater and Harrods. He dismissed reports of passports being stolen at Malaysia Hall.”

So, did the High Commission staff feed the Foreign Minister misleading information? The remark, by the former head of Immigration, is telling. Did the CCTVs in Malaysia Hall and the Canteen, show the supposed passport thefts? What is the real reason behind the ruling?

Two. Friday Prayers.

If security is of the utmost concern to the Malaysia High Commission, why is the passport ruling waived for Friday prayers?

On Fridays, the main entrance, and the metal grille to the Canteen is unlocked between 12 and 2 pm.

During this period, any foreign Tom, Dick or Harry,  can enter the premises, via the metal grille to the Canteen, or use the main entrance, and make their way towards the basement prayer room, which is adjacent to the Canteen.

They need not be accompanied by a Malaysian. They need not show any proof of identification, but afterwards, the foreigners must leave the premises and not stay to eat.

The Canteen operator is warned not to serve any foreigners.

This ruling puts her in a difficult position. A Filipino may look Malay. A mixed race Malaysian may not look Malay. The Canteen operator will be reported if she serves a  foreigner.

Conversely, if she were to probe and demand to see the customer’s passport, she would be called a racist and her business would suffer. More importantly, she has no authority to scrutinise anyone’s passport. That onus should fall on the Diplomatic Staff, but on what grounds? To eat?

For decades, Malaysians and their foreign friends have enjoyed Malaysian hospitality and food at Malaysia Hall (first at Bryanston Square and now at Queensborough Terrace). This new directive puts Malaysia in a bad light.

So, do pickpockets not work on Fridays?

Three. Non-Malaysians must be accompanied by passport bearing Malaysians.

The Foreign Minister said that non-Malaysians could enter the Canteen provided they were accompanied by a Malaysian who showed his passport.

The receptionists at Malaysia Hall, are asked to act as ‘security guards’, to screen customers to the Canteen. They are not trained for this role.

The discretion used is far from satisfactory. Many visitors have complained about the arrogance of the Little Napoleons at the entrance.

One Malaysian wife, with her  English husband, had come to eat at the Canteen. She was rudely asked, “Who is he? What is his relationship to you?”

For decades, the Bruneians have frequented the Canteen. Last December, some who had gone to eat at The Canteen, were barred from entry and rudely told about the thefts which precipitated the change in policy. The Pengiran from Brunei said, “…but what would we want to steal..?”

Two Malaysian students came to eat; one had his passport with him, the other did not. Furious at being rejected, the one who did not have his passport, took the train and bus ride to his digs, a 90-minute round trip, and returned to show his passport to the officious Malaysia Hall receptionist. He did this as a matter of principle.  

A Malaysian, from Taiping, was touring England at Christmas, with his Singaporean wife and daughter. The girls were banned from The Canteen, even though the Malaysian husband showed his passport.

If the Malaysian High Commission and Education Ministry want their receptionists to act as guard dogs, they could at least be tutored in civil mindedness, courtesy and the use of discretion.

Four. Diplomatic territory

What constitutes diplomatic territory? Malaysia Hall (MH), which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, provides temporary lodgings for mostly government sponsored students. It is also a convenient venue for talks by ministers.

It is undisputed that the Malaysian High Commission, in Belgrave Square, is considered under the Vienna Convention, to be Malaysian soil.

So, is the Canteen of the Malaysian Education department, which is two miles away, also on sovereign soil? Was this fact hidden for 61 years? Is MSD really on diplomatic territory? Or is this a convenient misrepresentation?

If it is claimed that Malaysia Hall and the Canteen is on diplomatic territory, why is it not guarded by armed policemen from the London’s Metropolitan Police’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (DaDP)?

Five. Contractual obligations

The Canteen Operator claimed that she was only given 48 hours notice before the new ruling took effect.

She was not informed about passport controls.

She was only told that the metal grille to the basement, where the Canteen is located, would be locked. Patrons to the Canteen needed to use the main entrance.

The Canteen operator pays rental and amenities (water, electricity, gas) and agreed that it was MH’s prerogative to decide on the entrance as they owned the building. However, had she known about the passport rulings, she would have objected, because her business would be affected.

So, why did the High Commission and the Ministry breach the terms of their contract with the Canteen Operator. There was allegedly no prior consultation or discussion, with the Canteen Operator.

Six. Health and Safety

Staff of the High Commission and the Education Ministry hold the key which opens the side door to the Canteen at Malaysia Hall. This door leads to the short staircase to the road.

By locking the door and holding onto the key, the Education Ministry staff are breaking fire safety rules. Customers will not be able to flee from any fire which breaks out, via the side door to the road. They will have to negotiate the series of narrow passageways to Malaysia Hall’s main entrance. The locking of the side door from the Canteen means that there is only one escape route from the Canteen.

Did the High Commission staff who imposed the silly ruling have a hidden agenda?

Many disappointed Malaysians, who work, study and live in London, are furious.

One said, “Is the passport ruling a red herring for someone’s hidden agenda?”

Another asked, “Is this passport ruling a smokescreen for something serious which happened at the High Commission? Apparently, some officials based in Malaysia, allegedly do not know that the Canteen and the High Commission are two miles apart.”

One person said, “Is someone hounding the Canteen operator out of business, with a view of taking over?”

As we can enter Malaysia Hall, without having to bring Passports and ICs, lets party!!!

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5 Comments

  • WA says:

    Not a very nice thing to say, Mariam. You don’t even know the context behind the premises. You didn’t even enquire with the building management and decided to incite hatred on Education Malaysia. The decent thing to do would be to see someone from management. Any decent person would know that the ‘bodyguards’ are just doing their job. Shame on you.

  • Hang Tuah says:

    On the contrary, Kak Mariam, congratulations to writing about it and finally getting rid of the red tape and unnecessary bureaucratic nonsense of having to prove your nationality to eat there. From my perspective it was an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful food of Malaysia and the people and culture from whom we drew our food and cooking. Really mixed and wonderful cuisine which combined the three cultures wonderfully. Did the powers to be ever think in this manner? A word of caution though, having eaten there once, I was hospitalized from suspected food poisoning for a year in deep coma and only woken by the bombing of the London tube by the jihadists. LOL. (the last sentence was meant as a joke for those uninitiated and having no sense of humour.)

  • Dato Dr. Zainul Azizan says:

    Mariam, you are dead right. There maybe a hidden agenda to get this operator out of business so “someone” can take over. Many mysteries over the High Commission like the case of missing Chandeliers that was found at an auction house. Would the High Commissioner like to comment on the investigation or it is swept under the carpet as usual for Malaysia Boleh?

  • Ketoophat says:

    Words has it…Msian was targeted by bunch of eastern Europeans mafias n gangsta to rompak and pretend to be polis. Few metres away from mh.
    They hang around to makan etc… Then targeted them…. That was few years ago . wallahualam..

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