and the police
medical doctor and his wife, a neighbour of a cabinet minister,
were returning home last week when a Mercedes Benz, with a few
men, well-dressed, in control, deliberately chased their BMW and
tried to force them off the road.
The doctor gave them
the slip, rushed to the cabinet minister's home and his wife screamed
for help. The policeman on duty did nothing as the men calmly
got out of their Mercedes to seize the lady's handbag and quietly
sped away. The minister, hearing the commotion, raised the alarm.
It was too late.
One former cabinet minister
said his young son would regularly take the policeman's pistol
when the fellow slept on duty yet the latter would be unconcerned
when he found it missing on waking. Dereliction of duty is expected,
it would seem, when mounting guard at a cabinet minister's house.
Were it only that, it
would not matter. But one cannot now expect the police to act
expeditiously as situation warrants.
You had an accident?
You are forced to spend hours at the police station, only to be
told at the end of it all the police could do little if the other
party did not report. The reporting is to comply with the law
and your rights with the insurance company which insured your
car. The law that requires you to file a police report after an
accident is cheerfully ignored.
But these are minor
squiggles. What frightens is the police's poor record in solving
A girl was brutally
murdered in the vicinity of police headquarters. The case is forgotten.
Another unsolved crime. The miraculous appearance of a Taliban-like
organisation, more frightening than the original, has, we are
told, solved other high-profile murders and serious crimes. But
none are, as yet, are charged in court for the crimes.
So, the citizen is more
at risk in his daily life. In the past fortnight, burglars tied
the husband and raped his wife in his sight; in another, a girl,
not yet 10, is raped in front of her parents.
A resident in the area
of the first incident tried, so far unsuccessfully, to inform
the police of how a dozen foreigners, Indonesians all, living
at the house next door to his, put his family in fear. The police
told him since no crime was committed, they could not accept his
I advised him to note
the badge number of the policemen he spoke to and complain to
the officer-in-charge, with copies to the Inspector-General of
Police and the home minister. The police cannot refuse to accept
a complaint. In any case, the law provides for severe penalties
for filing false reports. When, years ago, the police would not
at first accept my complaint, but relented only after I promised
to inform the then home minister, one Dr Mahathir Mohamad, if
they did not accept it.
The citizen today is
afraid of the police. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was common for
houseowners to inform the police if they were not in town. A policeman
regularly would turn up to find the house was not broken into.
Now, you invite trouble if you do that. The citizen tries to order
his life as far away from the police as possible. They are not
regarded as friends.
Crime is all too prevalent
in the Klang Valley, and no doubt elsewhere in the country. What
the newspapers report are but a token. Anecdotal evidence suggests
it is committed by Indonesian workers, legal or illegal; the rising
violence, including rapes, adds fear. And not just Indonesians.
The Bangladeshis, mostly illegal, add to the problem. And the
police's ho-hum approach to crime prevention.
Yet, when Umno Youth
or the MCA or MIC president lodges a police report usually to
frighten their critics, the police begins to investigate immediately.
When the Inspector-General of Police beats up the just arrested
and sacked deputy prime minister, and lies about it, those lower
down, it is a fair bet to assume, would with impunity do the same
with those they arrest.
Ask those arrested under
the ISA if they were maltreated, they would deny it on the record,
but in private often would not. No one believes he would not be
physically abused if the police would ever arrest him, and not
necessarily under the Internal Security Act.
The crackdown on porno
videos is, so the talk goes, to force new distributors, challengers
to the status quo, off the streets and business. That it widens
to include political videos is neither here nor there. But it
is a safe bet that once the newcomer is forced off, the police
would lose interest in all VCDs on sale, porno, political or pirated.
It does not matter if
one is wrong in these public perceptions and assumptions. If the
citizen, enough of them, believes it, the truth does not matter.
That is why the government lost the moral high ground long before
it finally admitted the Inspector-General of Police (then) no
less assaulted the just arrested former deputy prime minister,
Anwar Ibrahim, in 1998.
However you look at
it, the police are now not neutral. If a citizen has a problem
with his MP, especially if he is from Barisan Nasional, especially
if it leads to blows, he cannot expect the police to look upon
it neutrally, and charge the MP if he is wrong. They would not
investigate it, unless the higher up decides to make an example
of the MP.
The police once was
the citizen's shield against crime and political pressure. Today,
it would do little to provide that shield. It is yet another sign
that instruments of state break down irrevocably. One that cannot
change so long as the government does not know whether it comes