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My Buddy and I: Keeping Our Borders Safe Together
In the fourth story of our new series entitled “My Buddy and I", we speak to Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Staff Sergeants Nur Hafizah Bte Sulaiman and Tan Boon Peng.

Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Nur Hafizah Bte Sulaiman and her partner SSgt Tan Boon Peng, both 35, have been deployed as Baggage Clearance Officers at Changi Airport for the past five years.

Stationed at Changi Airport Terminal One, the pair is part of a team that directs arriving passengers for routine baggage screening. Working at the frontline is challenging, especially when they have to engage passengers from all over the world with varying demographics.

While performing their duties, they may encounter passengers attempting to smuggle prohibited and controlled items into Singapore. There are also passengers who have been detected with duty-unpaid items.

“Once, I directed two passengers for baggage screening but they were uncooperative and started to shout at me in Mandarin. I did not understand what they were unhappy about. Thankfully, Boon Peng came to assist me. After he explained to the passengers on the need for us to carry out our due diligence of screening the baggage, they reluctantly complied. That was when we found contraband cigarettes in their luggage!” said SSgt Hafizah.

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Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Nur Hafizah Bte Sulaiman (left) and her buddy SSgt Tan Boon Peng (right) have been partnered together as Baggage Clearance Officers at Changi Airport Terminal One since 2011. Photo: Syed Muhammad Khidir

SSgt Hafizah is thankful to have SSgt Boon Peng as her working partner as his proficiency in Mandarin often helped her deal with Mandarin-speaking passengers.

“Since Hafizah has been in Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) longer than me, she has more experience as a frontline officer. She’s always helping me out at work and shares interesting case detections with me. She also guides me during shifts so that we can better assess passengers’ eligibility for entry into Singapore.” said SSgt Boon Peng.

Seeing that SSgt Hafizah was facing a language barrier with Mandarin-speaking passengers, SSgt Boon Peng taught his partner some basic Mandarin phrases.

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Besides conducting baggage checks and security screening together, the pair also exchange notes on their experiences regularly to improve their work efficiency and effectiveness. Photo: Syed Muhammad Khidir

“I would write down and memorise what Boon Peng taught me, and clarify with him if I have any questions. Thanks to him, I can now engage passengers in Mandarin comfortably, which surprises them!” said SSgt Hafizah as the two shared a laugh.

Their tight-knit bond extends outside of work, with the two usually working out in the gym or playing badminton together after their shift.

“We help each other all the time, whether on or off duty. It can be anything from handling unhappy passengers or supporting each other after a tiring shift. But we are always there for one another,” emphasised SSgt Hafizah.

“We know we can rely on each other for support in times of need. It has become a natural thing for us to even share our personal problems with each other. That’s how close we are” SSgt Boon Peng remarked.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Jaiesh Sachi
  2. 27 December 2016
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