The crime rate ball is in the regime’s court. And the longer they take to lob the ball back, with some believable explanation, with some concrete action plan, the more votes they’ll lose in the next election, observes Zaharom Nain.
He may wish to preface his response with that trademark inane grin of his, he may even decide for the time being to hold his breath until his face turns blue, hoping that all this will go away.
But, whatever he wishes to do, at the end of the day, the Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein – and perhaps also Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) chief executive officer Idris Jala – will need to come clean about the incidences of crime in this country.
Indeed, all these tai chi moves to initially dodge and later belittle this issue are truly worrying many Malaysians, especially those of us living in these concrete jungles and are making these ministers and their ministries look more uncaring and clueless than they already are.
And, really, that’s not going to go down well with the electorate come election time.
Sure, they may sneer all they want now, feeling safe under the misconception that they’ve got a cushy vote bank that will save their hides and allow them to crawl back into Parliament.
Well, if that’s what they’re thinking and doing, they would be well advised to wake up and smell the kopi O, because Malaysians these days – especially the nasty, demanding, urban ones – have had enough of all this bull crap.
Fact of the matter is, there are those of us – and I would think the number is considerable – who not only feel that the crime rate is rising, but are actually experiencing this rise.
And this genuinely distresses us.
After all, unlike these ministers, most of us cannot afford personal bodyguards to protect us and our properties 24/7, or live in palatial and well-fortified mansions like our ministers and their cronies do.
But because we pay our taxes and because such taxes are supposed to enable the government, however corrupt, to provide us with at least basic security, for a long while now we have looked to our law enforcers, the police force or PDRM, to look after us in that respect.
We certainly don’t expect gangsters on the road to smash our car windows and drive away with our belongings while we are stranded in a traffic jam or at a traffic light. We surely do not expect thieves in the night to break into our houses and terrorise us despite our doors being chained and bolted.
We most definitely do not expect to be accosted – in broad daylight, mind you – in the street, in brightly-lit shopping mall car parks, outside police stations even, and get beaten to a pulp, kidnapped, raped or murdered.
And, God forbid, if we were violently attacked, we would demand that at the very least we end up as a statistic and not be conveniently removed from all official data bases to enable the people who failed to protect us and our loved ones to look nice, without a blemish on their service records.
And then, for them to indeed sneer, that “everything is under control”, that crime figures are actually falling fast, that they are doing their job magnificently, and that everything else that looks violent, dirty and bad is mere “perception”.
Am I being over-dramatic? I don’t think so, given the recent debacle regarding alleged discrepancies in the crime rates in Malaysia.
Let us not forget, for instance, that in late June this year, the Home Ministry had reportedly given three conflicting sets of figures for the crime rate in 2009.
Initially, in response to a query he had made in 2010, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua said he received a written parliamentary reply, which stated the total crime cases in Selangor was 54,443 for 2009.
On 19 June, this year, in response to another query he had made, Pua received a written reply, which stated that the number of cases in 2009 was now 56,689, an increase of 2,246 from the previous figure given.
A day later, on 20 June, it was reported that Home Ministry secretary-general Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi withdrew the written reply to Pua and revised the 2009 crime figure to 54,994’, admitting that there had been a “typographical” error.
The point that’s been raised since is that, even if the figure of 56, 689 is a “typo”, this still doesn’t explain the discrepancy between the two other figures, the earlier one of 54,443 and the latter one of 54,994, a difference of 551 cases.
It is when things like this happen, and no explanation is forthcoming, that the rakyat begins to distrust further official explanations.
Indeed, this is the time when the rakyat lose patience and the leaders lose credibility, more so when they go into denial mode and start reprimanding the rakyat for being concerned about their personal safety, for questioning problematic – even contradictory – statistics.
Of course, even as these `leaders’ are grinning inanely, more eggs are splattered in their faces when new allegations surface, such as the most recent one.
This one, purportedly by an anonymous police officer, outlines how statistics may be – indeed are – cooked up by the authorities.
The detailed manner in which this recent allegation outlines how crime statistics are gathered and processed by the police and, equally detailed, how the same data may be manipulated makes for fascinating reading.
To anyone who has any sense whatsoever, they sound very genuine and believable indeed.
And precisely because they are too detailed, too specific to be simply dismissed as a tale concocted by local television scriptwriters – or mainstream media journalists – these revelations have been discussed and debated widely, particularly among Malaysian netizens.
‘Do we simply take the police’s word?’
Three cabinet ministers, Hishammuddin, Idris Jala and Koh Tsu Koon, plus, of course, the inspector-general of police (IGP), have been targeted for a response.
Characteristically, the immediate response from the relevant authorities was total silence. Of the many reactions to this silence, perhaps the following from Abasir, a Malaysiakini subscriber, reflects the current mood among many disgruntled Malaysians:
“It is not gentlemanly to pressurise the cabinet trio to come up with an answer in this manner. They need time to consult, time to come up with a spin, time to launch a witch hunt to nab the whistleblower, time to find a carpet-bagger to pay someone to say that the report was false and instigated by the opposition. They need time to do all this and it’s been a long Raya break.”
Naughty, but nice.
On Tuesday, the first official rebuttal by PDRM was released. In a turgid and long-winded response to the allegations, PDRM’s public relations office addressed 11 allegations, providing rejoinders and what in passing may appear as `explanations’.
However, when looked at in greater detail, especially at the language used, one wouldn’t be totally faulted for thinking one of two things – first, that, for the most part, the PDRM responses either avoided entirely answering or rebutting the allegations or, second and more evidently, that they simply regurgitated PDRM standard operating procedures (SOP).
As we all know, SOPs are fine. But, really, an important question to ask is, are those SOPs adhered to by everyone concerned? And where’s the evidence that they are? What sort of independent auditing mechanisms are in place?
Or are we supposed to simply take the word of personnel who, at one time, had car stickers that, if memory serves me, pleaded “do not bribe me”?
And, sure, chapter six (Reducing Crime) of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) may provide a lot of guarded, if not fancy, definitions about street crimes, which seem to be the focus of all these rebuttals.
But, tellingly, just as PDRM released their mini-thesis, the main headline on the front page of an English daily screamed `Gangster paradise’, with a subtext that read: “KL night scene bosses forced to use hoodlums as bouncers, cry out for help.”
This, of course, came about after the recent shooting and killing of two nightclub bouncers – and the injuries of many others – at Heritage Row in Kuala Lumpur.
The newspapers’ reports, among other things, quoted one nightclub owner as saying, “The police can’t help us and the gangsters can shut us down if we don’t give in to their demands.” And these are legitimate, licensed establishments.
‘Ball is in the regime’s court’
This, many of us believe, is the crux of the matter. Despite all the spin, cases of shootings, robberies, daylight assaults and attempted abductions – all very real crimes on individuals and properties – seem to have become commonplace.
And the law enforcers increasingly appear helpless.
And when action appears to be taken, it doesn’t help that the authorities are seldom if ever proactive and seem to only act after the fact.
Indeed, just after this recent double-murder, we get the relatively new KL Mayor declaring that, after a high-level inter-department meeting, “City Hall will be conducting spot checks on the nightspots in Jalan Doraisamy at the Heritage Row to ensure they strictly observe their closing hours…’
And, I suppose, we are to say bravo to this master stroke? And to all the other master strokes – read excuses – provided by the authorities?
Yet again, the ball is in the regime’s court. And, invariably, the longer they take to lob the ball back, with some believable explanation, with some concrete action plan and not hare-brained, ad hoc schemes and grandiose SOPs, the more votes they’ll lose in the next election.
Media analyst Zaharom Nain is a long-time Aliran member based in Kuala Lumpur. This commentary first appeared in Malaysiakini