Well, it turn out to be memorable indeed, but all for the wrong reasons.
As in previous years, with the exception of the last, we would celebrate the 1st day of Syawal at my parents' home in Singapore. Since my parents are the eldest living relatives in our clan, most of my cousins in Singapore from both father and mother's side, would visit them on the first day of Aidilfitri. This means that their tiny flat in Bukit Batok would be filled to the brim with guests coming by throughout the day.
On the last day of the fasting month, my wife had slogged throughout the day to cook various dishes for the hari raya celebrations. This included the traditional chicken rendang and a large pot of nasi briyani. It was nearly close to midnight when her dishes were ready and it took another hour or so for us to be ready to load the food and our other stuff into my son's car. By the time we left our JB home to head for Singapore, it was technically already Wednesday the 6th of July 2016.
When we reached the immigration checkpoint at the Johor side of the causeway, my passport was cleared. So were the passports of my eldest son, daughter-in-law and youngest son. But there seemed to be a problem with my wife's passport. My wife and I had to alight from the car and go the Immigration Office to find out what the issue was.
The lady officer checked her computer and told us that my wife is on the Inland Revenue Board's blacklist for alleged non-payment of income tax and therefore barred leaving the country.
My wife left the employment scene 21 years ago when she was pregnant with our 3rd child. She has never been in full-time employment since then. In my own tax returns, I declared that my wife has no income and for which I'm claiming spouse relief. It therefore came as a huge surprise that IRB is chasing her for unpaid taxes.
Of course we had a thousand and one questions to ask but the Immigration officer was not in a position to give reply. All she could do was offer her sympathy and say that many people have been caught in similar situations. She is only doing her job in following IRB's directive.
My wife and I are not tax evaders. I know that IRB has set this procedure to go after those who owe the government tons of money in unpaid taxes. But the least that IRB can do is to first notify us of any possible outstanding amounts instead of resorting to this drastic method of preventing people to travel outside the country. My wife had never received any letter or other forms of communication from the taxman prior to this. In today's age of information technology, IRB cannot say that they don't know of my wife's current address. In fact, they could have relayed the information to me by mail, e-mail or telephone call. My income tax file is very much active and all those contact details are there.
It was turning out to be a bleak hari raya for us. We were not allowed to spend the special day with our parents. We had to turn back. My wife was so crestfallen.
When we got home, my son took out our luggage and rearranged the stuff in his car boot. He and his wife then retraced their route to their grandparents' home in Singapore. They became our representatives for the family gathering. No doubt my son would face endless questions from the relatives on why his mother and father are not home for hari raya.
To add salt to the wound, the long holiday break meant that we had to wait for another 6 days until Monday before we could visit the Inland Revenue office to find out more about our case. This we eventually did. For now we have reached an interim solution with them. It's not fully cleared yet so I'll perhaps write on that part after the case is settled.
So what did we do on the first day of Aidilfitri? We decided to visit my maternal uncle and aunt at my mother's hometown of Pontian. At least we did something meaningful to wash away the sorrow caused by a government who claims that they have the rakyat's needs as priority.... rakyat didahulukan. Ya lah tu...
I'm sure you can detect my sarcasm.
|A different type of hari raya this year|