Opinion, Uncategorized

Wishing for a safe country

by Lim Mun Fah

translated by Soong Phui Jee

News about the deteriorating crime situation in our country have always been significantly reported by neighbouring countries, particularly Singapore. Not long ago, The police and Home Ministry hit out at a Singapore-based newspaper for its front-page story on recent gun attacks in Malaysia. However, it is out of my expectation that our safety problem has actually become serious enough to cause the attention of US media.

Last Friday, the problem of high crime rate in Malaysia has been reported by the International New York Times. The article headlined Tracking the Malaysia’s Crime Wave was attached with pictures showing a family dining at a restaurant guarded by security personnel, and a a “beware of snatch thief” signboard which can commonly be seen in Kuala Lumpur.

The report also pointed out that Kuala Lumpur was once one of Asia’s safest cities, but “is hard to find someone in Kuala Lumpur today who does not have a story about a purse snatching, a burglary or worse.”

Such an explicit report has certainly set a blow to the image of Malaysia and might even affect the country’s tourism industry. However, it was a US press report supported by facts. In addition to “feeling regret” and asking them to try to put themselves in our shoes, what else can the Home Ministry do?

In fact, the best response is not to defend our own weaknesses, but to change the facts with actions, and change others’ perception of us. Deteriorating crime situation in Klang Valley is a fact that cannot be hidden. There is no need to hide it either. What the government and police should do is to fight criminals and restore peace. Only by doing so, the good image of “Malaysia is the safest country” can be built.

A series of robberies and shootings have taken place in Klang Valley over the past few months. Even though I am staying in Johor Bahru and not living under the fear, I can still understand it. It is because the security here is not good either. The people of Johor Bahru had been caught in an extreme fear of murder, robbery and rape threats a few years ago. It took the angry people to the streets to protest against the poor public safety.

Unusual time requires unusual law enforcement. We can see that indeed, the police has taken stern actions, including having more police patrolling the streets, more road blocks, a few busting operations and killing criminals on the spot. Scary shootings seem to have reduced and public safety problem seems to have been eased. However, new concerns emerged. The choice between safety and freedom has resulted in different arguments.

In fact, the people support the police’s Ops Cantas Khas but in the face of the choice between safety and freedom, some people still have reservations in making the choice. It is because members of the public on one hand hate armed high risk criminals and want them to be eliminated. On the other hand, however, they are worried that the restoration of the detain before trial measures might be abused and bring a disaster to the innocent.

Some non-governmental organisations and political parties are also worried that the overreaction of the police might infringe the fundamental rights of suspects, such as allowing policemen to shoot first when feeling threatened. Therefore, there are intense voices questioning and opposing the police’s crime curbing measures.

Why the police’s Ops Cantas Khas is welcomed but at the same time criticised? To put it bluntly, it is actually a kind of natural reaction when some people lack confidence in the police and worry about possible abuse of power. Therefore, to curb crimes, police discipline must also be rectified. It is the voice of the public in general, as well as a problem that the police must address.

* The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the columnist and this article first appeared in SinChew Daily

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