If you’ve been keeping up with the latest political drama, you might be familiar with the sandals incident involving Dewan Negara (Senate) president Tan Sri S.A. Vigneswaran. On the night of 14 November, he’d apparently been stopped by officers stationed at the VIP lanes of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for not following the dress code, and the security recording also shows he proceeded into the VIP lobby area without a proper security check.
There was some political squabble after that which we won’t get into, but the last we know is that the airport management lodged a police report against Vigneswaran. Selangor police chief Comm Datuk Mazlan Mansor has confirmed that the case is being investigated under the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act 1959 (PAPPA).
Most of us may not even know what rules VIP lanes have before this, much less that we had a law covering it at all. Are these rules just airport policies, or is breaching them an actual crime? Here’s what the PAPPA contains about airport VIP lanes.
Airport VIP lanes have special security measures imposed by law
Airport VIP lanes are apparently designated as one of many “protected places” and “protected areas” in Malaysia under Sections 4 and 5 of the PAPPA. They sound like almost the same thing, but they differ mainly in that “protected places” are where unauthorized people are not allowed to enter, but “protected areas” cover areas where a person’s movements and actions are controlled as long as they’re within the area.
In short, you could take it that:
“Protected places” = “Authorized Staff Only” places and exclusive areas, like a VIP lounge
“Protected areas” = the area past the security scanners and customs
The PAPPA says that the Minister of Transport can issue an order to declare an area as “protected” if special security is needed in that area. This order operates differently from most regulations issued by the government, which are usually published in the Federal Gazette for public viewing before they can take effect (like smoking regulations). Instead, the Ministry will only notify people who need to know, like the people at airports who will be enforcing security.
Breaking the rules in protected places is a crime
Any person in those areas must comply with directions given by authorized officers as to where they can go and any other regulations on their behaviour. Authorized officer also have the power to detain and search people who enter protected spaces.
If anyone fails to comply with these directions, they can be kicked out by authorized officers, and/or be charged with a criminal offence. Locations like airports are quite clearly designated as “protected” because security is a big concern in these places, so while any failure to follow the rules in these cases could be as small as a misunderstanding, it could also involve national security…
Anyone who fails to comply with the rules behind “protected areas” and “protected places” can be found guilty of an offence, which makes them liable for up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine of RM1,000.
Always cooperate with airport security
We all appreciate the value of feeling safe at airports, and also when we’re finally on our flight. That assurance is made possible with stringent measures to check for potential threats, and it comes with cooperating with security personnel to make sure everything is in order.
In line with that, offences under the PAPPA are considered “seizable” and “non-bailable”, which basically means that offenders can be arrested without a warrant, and normally, the person stays in lockup while waiting to appear before a court, and they’re not allowed bail.
[READ MORE - How does bail work in Malaysia?]
A further interesting trivia is that if someone tries entering a “protected area” or “protected place” and refuses to cooperate 3 times, the officers on guard are allowed to kill them…
For the most part, this is not something most of us will ever encounter, but it’s hard not to appreciate of the gravity of the situation here because this power is rarely ever given in our laws - even to the police.