21 July 2013

Crime is out of control. Gang activity is out of control. Indian gangsters are so brazen that they wear their gang numbers openly, like badges of honour, and kill and rob with impunity.

On the flip side, the police are helpless and increasingly despondent and detectives are now mostly observing criminal activity and filing the information away.

Welcome to Malaysia, as sketched by former Inspector General of Police and Perkasa heavyweight Tan Sri Rahim Noor. In an interview with Mingguan Malaysia today, the man, who gained infamy for nearly killing Anwar Ibrahim after the latter's detention under the Internal Security Act, makes a case for a return of a law which will allow for preventive detention, much like the abolished Emergency Ordinance.

The way Rahim tells it, without laws which allow for preventive detention, the Royal Malaysian Police is ineffective and incapable of battling crime. Unwittingly, he paints a picture of a force that has become so reliant on the EO to keep Malaysia safe.

Rahim was asked to comment on the impact of abolishing the EO on the police force. He said: "I have received information from police officers at all levels that the situation is out of control. Preventive detention cannot be done because there are no laws that allow this. Gangsterism is getting worse but there is no way to control it. Police personnel are only observers and cannot make any arrests."

Gang fights and murder are common, especially in the Klang Valley, as is extortion but police are powerless to keep a lid on the crime situation and monitor the activities of the gangsters as there are no preventive laws, says Rahim.

The opposition and critics of the police will pounce on Rahim's comments as further evidence of how the Malaysian police force have forgotten investigate skills and have used preventive laws as a crutch.

Rahim was less than impressed with the assertion by Attorney-General Gani Patail that he would not support the introduction of any new legislation which would re-introduce some form of preventive legislation. He said that the AG did not have a complete picture of the crime situation and pointed out that while the AG's Chambers had the final word on prosecution, the police had a bigger say on matters of crime prevention.

What comes across from this interview is of a former police officer wanting a return to the old days when the police had unfettered power to do as they wished. He lamented how laws regarding investigation had undergone seismic changes.

"Amendments after amendments have been done and now police investigations are dictated by court decisions and instructions from the Attorney-General," he said, noting that before the law was amended four years ago, police had to seek the approval of a magistrate to hold a suspect in remand for 14 days. Now the remand period cannot be for more than seven days, and even then two applications had to be made for a seven-day remand period.

He was also unhappy with a requirement for the police to inform the National Legal Aid foundation of every drug case, saying that it adds another layer of administrative work.

Rahim's sketch of the crime fighting landscape will be seized upon by Umno ministers who have been quietly critical of Prime Minister Najib Razak's decision to do away with the Internal Security Act and the EO. Still, it is unlikely that Rahim will have the last word on crime in Malaysia.

Over the past few years, the Najib administration has been at pains to convince Malaysians that the crime situation has improved and that it is only a perception that there is a breakdown of law and order. Rahim's sketch of a country in the throes of a crime explosion will only add to scepticism.


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