Move to recruit more non-Malays into PDRM welcomed – but this must only be the beginning


Much more needs to be done to create fair and equal opportunities and this move must extend to other government agencies as well, says Francis Loh.


Two days ago, on Police Day, Johor deputy police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Ismail Yatim urged Chinese Malaysians to come forward and join the police force. His invitation comes on the heels of an earlier announcement by Deputy Inspector General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin that the force aims to increase the number of Chinese Malaysian police personnel in the country to 5,000, especially for the position of constable.

Aliran welcomes these announcements as, at present, there are only 1,974 Chinese among the 111,395 personnel in nation’s police force – a mere 1.77 per cent of the total.

The Deputy IGP clarified that the PDRM had relaxed several requirements pertaining to recruitment – requiring a pass instead of a credit in SPM Bahasa Malaysia and accepting applicants wearing spectacles or contact lenses – and was looking at reducing the training period from nine to six months.

The campaign with road shows is being conducted in various states from now until April (Sunday Star, 2 March 2014).

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation vice-president Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has welcomed the announcement. He stated: “A lot of Chinese are part of the Police Volunteer Reserve (PVR). If they’re interested to be part of PVR,
I’m sure they would be interested to join the police force too.”

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He revealed that many Chinese have had their applications to join the force rejected previously because of stringent entry requirements (The Star, 3 March 2014).

Judging from the latest statistics provided by PDRM, it appears that Chinese involvement in the police force has dropped even more over the past decade. In the Report of the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police, 2004 (Table 4.12 on page 135-36), it was revelaed that there were 90,256 personnel in the PDRM in 2004.

Malays accounted for 78.3 per cent of the total; Indians and Punjabis 4 per cent; and Chinese (2,277) only 2.5 per cent. Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh, Murut, Thai, Ceylonese, and Portuguese categorised as ‘Others’ made up the remaining 15.2 per cent.

The data which is presented in terms of the different ranks also showed that all the top positions were held by Malays. A single Chinese held the rank of Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police while the highest ranking Indian was a Senior Assistant Commissioner II.

Against such statistics for 2004, consider this perhaps surprising scenario: in 1968, it was estimated that Malays made up only 45.1 per cent of police officers and some 39 per cent of the entire police force. Malay participation increased sharply during the 1970s and 1980s so that in 1989 when the police force totalled some 76,000, non-Malays made up only 30-40 per cent of the officers while Chinese made up only 4.6 per cent of the entire force. (These estimates have been taken from the influential book Government and Politics in Malaysia (1996: page 137) authored by Dr Harold Crouch who used to be Professor of Politics in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

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In other words, prior to May 1969, non-Malays used to dominate the police force especially in the higher ranks. The pre-eminence of the Malays in the police force today is actually a reversal of the pre-1969 situation. And on this reversal, the 2004 Royal Commission Report (p. 135) has commented: “The present situation contrasts with the situation in the PDRM before. In May 1969 for instance, 68 percent of non-Malays are Division One officers, a situation that was equally unsatisfactory.”

How did such a reversal occur? The Royal Commission Report further states “according to the PDRM, a major reason for the poor representation of the Chinese [today] was because relatively few Chinese apply to become Constables, where the bulk of new recruitment takes place”.

Significantly, the Report (p.138) also notes that “the non-Malay community especially the Chinese and Indians are dissatisfied with the lack of explanation given for the rejection of applications in a number of cases. They harbour the feeling that they have been deliberately discriminated against”.

More than this, a popular view among non-Malays is not only that they are discriminated against in the recruitment process. They also harbour the view that they are further discriminated in their promotional prospects. Indeed, such views pertain not only to engagement with the PDRM but vis-a-vis the army, navy, air force, immigration, bomba, DCA, universities and the entire educational system, local government, state and federal bureaucracy, including the prestigious PTD; and not forgetting the GLCs.

It is clearly time to put an end to such discrimination on the basis of race and religion. Or, if it is deemed that there does not exist such discrimination, let us then go out of our way to recruit and promote the non-Malays who are qualified and capable so that the burden of fighting crime, delivering services, defending the nation, or in this time of the ill-fated MH370, sharing the SAR duties can be shared by all Malaysians regardless of race and religion.

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Then we would not need any Foundation or programme to pronounce ‘1Malaysia’. I dare say that it would emerge quite spontaneously as all Malaysians share common rights and responsibilities.

Hence, while we welcome this first step to recruit more non-Malay policemen, we need to stress that much more needs to be done, and not only with regard to the police force.

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Francis Loh
Dr Francis Loh served as honorary secretary of Aliran for 20 years and then president of Aliran for five years from 2011 to 2016. He was formerly professor of politics at Universiti Sains Malaysia.


  1. What you are advocating will never ever happen, the police has always been using the stupid excuse that the Chinese are not applying to become a member of the police force.
    To begin with how come the police force in Singapore has more than 80% Chinese in their police, navy and air forces ?
    Why, because the Chinese and the other races have the equal opportunity to become the chiefs of the forces the elect to join if they are just as good as everyone else in the force they join. Whereas in Malaysia just look at the top ten, it may be more, of the police, navy and air forces are always, I reiterate, are always reserved for the Malays. Regardless of their abilities and in this circumstances what kind of prospects are there for the Chinese to join the police, navy or the air forces? Yet they are quick to blame the Chinese for not joining the police or the other disciplines.
    Some of you might not even remember the late Albert Mah, a very hands on police officer, a good example of how responsible he was. When as a CPO of Penang one night he went under cover, dressed as a trishaw peddler, to find out and experience more of what was going on in his state, Have you ever heard of any (other) of senior positions done that since ? Yet the highest rank he ever got to was a CPO, when a police officer, junior to him, was (allegedly) promoted above him and eventually became the IGP during his time in the police force.
    With this kind of prospect and incentives ,in the police force are there for the Chinese ? He eventually was elected to become a MP and was known to have said that the policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul has to stop !
    Isn’t this enough reason for the Chinese, to stay away as police officers ? So coming up with the excuse that the Chinese themselves are not joining the police, navy or the air forces. Over the last 57 years have there ever been a Chinese or non Malay become the chief or even the assistant of the police force? Just imagine having to report to someone who is so much more inferior in decisions than you daily. A Chinese in Malaysia will never have positions suitable to their abilities. Simple as that many I know of have immigrated because of that policy, especially since egregious Mahathir became PM and started his drive to have the civil services occupied, if possible, by the Malays ! Once again don’t blame the Chinese for not wanting to join the police just blame it on your policy.


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