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Trusting the police

person sweating while looking at police at the door

EARLIER this week, while I was in the office alone in the morning, two uniformed police officers appeared outside our glass office door. One peered in. I looked up and smiled but my fingers were ready to sign in to Twitter if the police rang the doorbell. The officer who was peering in smiled back, and following some discussion outside our office, moved downstairs. Phew, wrong office.

Was I startled to see police outside The Nut Graph‘s office? You bet. In a climate where the state is clearly going after independent media such as Malaysiakini for accurately reporting on violent protestors and an unconscionable home minister, it’s hard not to feel a little tense when the authorities turn up. Imagine then what the Penan girls and women who were sexually violated by logging company employees feel towards the police?

According to at least one Star news report — and there have been many that try to explain why the police cannot apprehend the men who have been preying on the Penan — the rape survivors refuse to talk to the police. Well, guess what? I would have refused to open my office door to the police officers earlier this week. No prizes for guessing why — would you trust the police?

Whose side?

Penan woman, Mary Rahman (pic courtesy of Sofiyah Israa)

We shouldn’t find it surprising at all that the Penan women and girls refuse to speak with the police. After all, it’s these very same state-appointed officers who have consistently helped logging companies break up Penan blockades. And the same officers who locked up Penan men and women for trying to protect their land against logging companies could be the same ones who were trying to question the Penan women and girls.

Indeed, one of the findings of the Penan task force report was that the Penan have little trust of the authorities. And who can blame them. In fact, it’s hard to trust the police when they have done little to earn the public’s trust.

What did the police do when the cow-head protestors threatened violence on 28 Aug 2009 against the relocation of a Hindu temple? Nothing. What did the police do when a small group of peaceful Malaysians lit candles outside the Brickfields police station to show support for an arrested academic? Arrest them and their lawyers.

Mourners at A Kugan’s funeral, 28 Jan 2009

What did the police do when A Kugan was found dead in custody? Deny they were responsible. What have they done since an autopsy report found Kugan was beaten to death? Nothing at all to prove that deaths in custody will no longer happen.

What did the police do when thousands of Malaysians marched peacefully against the Internal Security Act? Resort to violent tactics to disrupt the rally and arrest nearly 600 people, including children. What did the police do when the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor government requested for police presence during a 5 Sept 2009 town hall meeting to discuss the Hindu temple relocation that was likely to get rowdy? They didn’t turn up.

So, there you have it. At least half a dozen reasons why people no longer trust the police or its ability to enforce the law justly and fairly.

Not just corrupt

The last time my partner and I were stopped by the police for a traffic offence, the officer wanted a bribe. We ignored his request. Ours, at least the first half of it, is a common story.

The last time my friend had her handbag snatched in her house compound in Section 14, PJ, she was told that the police know which areas are hotspots for snatch thefts. And yet, nothing had been done to address the problem.

Sivakumar being dragged out of the House (pic courtesy of Sinar Harian)

The last time the DAP tried to have a dinner in Klang, water cannon trucks and the FRU were also in attendance to dampen the event and prevent any speech-making. And on 7 May 2009, during the last highly dramatic event in the Perak state assembly, the police dragged Perak Speaker V Sivakumar out of his chair and unlawfully imprisoned him so that the Barisan Nasional could install its own speaker.

If we were at Nasa right now, I believe the right response to this troubling state of affairs in Malaysia would be, “Houston, we have a problem.

Not only are our police corrupt, they are inefficient. Hence, the skyrocketing crime rate, and the inability to protect the Penan from being violated.

Not only are the police inefficient, they are partisan. The police, it seems, will do anything to support the BN even though it is public funds, not Umno’s funds, which pay for the police force.

Not only are the police partisan, they use violence against peaceful Malaysians and against detainees, and watch and do nothing when other Malaysians threaten violence.


Seriously, it doesn’t need a rocket scientist at Nasa to figure out that Malaysia has a problem.

Crowd holding up placards condemning the police and asking for the IPCMC to be formed, on the day of A Kugan’s funeral

Question is, why won’t the BN government do anything concrete about it? Attempts to address the root causes of the police force’s corruption and inefficiencies have all been thwarted by the BN government itself. From rejecting the recommendations of the royal commission on reforming the police force to defending the police for acting out of line, the BN is clearly demonstrating what kind of police force it wants.

One has to wonder why. Perchance it’s for the sake of eventual anarchy? If we can no longer trust the police to do what’s right and to fulfil their functions, we can eventually expect citizens to take matters into their own hands.

Tantalising, isn’t it, if you were someone like the cow-head protestors, the ones the home minister defended. Without rule of law and law enforcement, what would we have? A nation run by thugs? That’s already happening in some instances. And I’ll wager that we can expect more of such instances for so long as we have the same government and the same police force. favicon

Jacqueline Ann Surin has had, and knows about, far too many bad experiences with the Malaysian police. She believes Malaysia needs a new police force.

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37 Responses to “Trusting the police”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for having the courage to write this piece. I’ve long stopped counting the many reasons why a change in the current regime can’t come soon enough. Keep up the insightful writing and thanks for raising the journalistic bar in Malaysia, Jacqueline!

  2. el says:

    A hard-hitting article that sums up the Malaysian Police Force. Sometimes we forget past events as new events unfold. We need brave writers like Jacqueline to keep reminding us how bad the rot is in our key government institutions. It has been proven again and again that the Najib regime condones (created) the rot and does not have the will to make drastic changes. The rakyat have no choice but to take matters in our own hands. Philipines 1986 comes to mind.

  3. jin says:

    Good to remember that whatever we do – the truth will set us free; if not now, it will come at the fullness of time. Keep writing the facts and the truth!

  4. Eric says:

    Shall we run a poll asking Malaysians whether PDRM is the 14th component of Barisan Nasional? Answers would be interesting.

  5. Zura says:

    This is the suitable slogan for Malaysia today: 1Elit Malaysia: Kroni Didahulukan, Salahguna Kuasa Diutamakan.

  6. U-Jean says:

    It’s disheartening to see such unaccomplishments of the body which is supposed to ensure our security. Shouldn’t respect be how we feel towards the force rather than distrust, fear, and cynicism?

    Has the force any accomplishments at all? I would really like to see an article on the accomplishments of the police force. Maybe Jacqueline and team might want to consider writing this article?

    Let’s find out about the tax money we put in, what actually have they done?

  7. The kind of change to the police force that is usually proposed is of the top-down variety: change the policies that govern the police and officers will fall into line.

    But where are the police from? Because it’s simple enough to conflate top leadership with the officer who patrols the streets. I think the on-duty police officer needs a different approach than Musa Hasan. But whatever reform proves successful, it will have to engage all levels of the culture of the police.

    Because that’s the only way the police is going to change: willingly. There needs to be a consensus for change inside the police force. Otherwise, it’s going to be change in name alone.

  8. Walter says:

    Hi Jac,

    I totally agree with you. The Malaysian police are not just corrupt. They are behaving like gangsters.

  9. amin says:

    I don’t really agree if [that] the force [is] to be blamed the most. I mean, they’re just the executioners who do their job as they are paid to do. What we need is a police force sitting directly under the Agong (perhaps), and not under some minister when power abuse is a big possibility.

    Hi Amin,

    Can we be certain there will be no power abuse if the police force was under the Agong?


  10. 2nd class says:

    Some how I think you put ALL your hatred [of] the police due to your political preference.

    The Malaysian crime rate is not as bad as you implied. At least we are much better than the so-called developed countries like America where the murder rate (not petty crime) is skyhigh. The police do have their problems but not as bad as you think. I certainly feel safe even as I walk around KL, even at 3am or 4am. IPCMC will make the police force [..] a joke because just like the politician, the IPCMC will be overwhelmed by public complaints and [the] police will become a toothless tiger.

    2nd class,

    Crime rates in Malaysia have risen. The total reported cases of crime in 2008 was a whopping 211,648 — a 35.5% increase from 2004’s total. (See:

    That’s not “as bad as [I’ve] implied”? Every single woman I know fears that her handbag will be snatched. Every single person I know who has been stopped by the police has been asked for a bribe. Every single car accident I’ve heard about takes unnecessary bureaucracy to be solved by the police.

    I don’t need to have a political preference to understand inefficiency when I see it. And as taxpayers who pay for the police’s salaries, I think we’re entitled to hold the police accountable for their pitiful performance, regardless of our political affiliations.


  11. kwchap says:

    Bravo Jacqueline … This piece of report really enlightened me … You have spoken for most of us Malaysians … PDRM = BN = UMNO

  12. Pakatan Rakyat leaders would do well to consider how our police (and armed forces) will respond in the event of a Pakatan victory during GE13. Imho, they should:

    1) Raise the issue early, get it onto the agenda, and work to define/redefine the “rules”,
    2) Plan so that none of their supporters’ actions can be used as an excuse for intervention in the democratic process.

    Civil society groups and the free press must take up this issue.

  13. Ygbenor says:

    Very right. The public have no trust in the police force anymore. A normal car accident happened to me two and half months ago and until now, the traffic police have no conclusive letter to say who was in the wrong (even though the person has confessed it was her fault) for me to claim insurance.

    Recently, even royalty are complaining of the efficiency of the police force and the AG’s Chamber for dragging an assault case.

    Only thing is to get a new IGP. Period.

  14. M.K. says:

    An excellent piece! While we salute your courage to call a spade a spade, we certainly worry about your safety given the current political climate in our country. Nevertheless, truth and justice will eventually prevail so long as we remain strong. God be with you.

  15. farez jinnah says:

    Enough with the rhetoric. We need a police force.

  16. Anonymous Coward says:

    I wasn’t aware that the police did not show up during the Selangor town hall meeting. That shows how non-partisan the police really are.

  17. Frankly says:

    The Malaysian police = Umno Youth with guns!

  18. siew eng says:

    Finally, an editor with the guts to say there’s something really, really wrong with the police.

    Way back in the 1990s, there was a survey of readers on what they thought of the police, conducted by the features section of The Star. And the results were already damning to say the least. But because of the delicate balance the editor faced in pushing the envelope […] without being slapped with a likely PPPA shutdown – hey, we’re talking about the *police*, here! Don’t play-play – the findings had to be toned down, and an olive branch of sorts offered to appease the police. The olive branch was in the form of an interview the then IGP (Rahim Noor, pre-Anwar’s black eye) to explain the police’s “side of things”.

    In between then and now, we had the royal commission on the police, which also did its job and came out with a lauded law, but kena tendang balik by…the police! Not by the people as per a democratic country, but by the very actors who do not appear to understand that reform is really in their best interest, so that they are respected as all law enforcement agencies should be.

    And now, we have an arrogant-beyond-muster police force that only knows to arrest citizens – their true [bosses]! – for peacefully exercising their democratic rights.

    And what are the BN-linked media saying about the latest transgressions? Continuing to kiss police ass?

    (A reminder: If you like this article and appreciate that your comment is featured easily, unlike how it works – or doesn’t – in the biased and space-constrained BN-linked media, please donate at least RM5 to The Nut Graph. I believe every bit counts when there is critical mass. So make it happen, please. Details here:

  19. vp says:

    The police today is worse than the kongsi gelap. Why? Kongsi gelap will disturb you if you do something that is related to them, like [an issue related to] money or women.

    But, police? You will never know why the police come to you, for good or bad. Even when you are doing nothing, they may come to ask for duit kopi.

    Malaysia now is just like Hong Kong 60 to 70 years ago where black and white already mixed up to harm the people…….sad….

  20. E.B. Lim says:

    You’re spot on ……. Let’s pray that God arranges for our country to fall to a fair and just government.

    A thousand curses be on them.

  21. allgotclass says:

    2nd class,

    It’s really pointless […] to say “crime is not as bad as we think”. In relation to what?

    1. Where does our crime stats come from? How is it classified? Is snatch theft still considered “petty theft”? Do YOU consider snatch theft a petty crime considering people have had serious injury and lost lives? In my neighbourhood, when asked, crime reports are not released by police and they don’t even give a reason for it. And yes, they don’t even encourage people to make reports.

    2. There’s no way to justify whether one’s fear in relation to “actual crime” is too much or too little. At the end of the day, if we talk about the quality of life and safe spaces, when the public has a high level of the fear of crime, that is reason enough that something needs to be addressed. Everyone has the right to feel safe where they live.

  22. noyawns says:

    [The] Home Minister is quoted – ntv7 news – to be regretful over the loss of the life of Noordin Top! He wants to help bring back the body of this terrorist! Pure silliness from a cabinet official! Who can blame anyone who has lost loved ones in the bombings masterminded by Noordin Top from being extremely offended?! Time Najib slapped his cousin silly! […]

  23. David Liew says:

    When you have a Home Minister who thinks that the police force is flawless, then whatever is done by the force is always right. Maybe we have to change the Home Minister. Better still change the present government. 2nd class, are you on the payroll of the force?

  24. Hasbee says:

    Honest police exist. But are a dying breed, I guess.

    A few weeks ago, I was at the Putra bus terminal waiting for a ride back home (just came back from Kuala Besut).. anyway.. there was a traffic cop who was issuing summons to the cars parked along the side of the road and at the bus stop. He [found] a taxi and started writing a ticket. The taxi driver, smoking at the bus stop, walked over and told him […], “Saya tunggu orang..”

    The cop replied, “Tak boleh parking dekat bus stop, taxi stand kat belakang” and continued to write the ticket. The taxi driver then proceeded to berate the cop (who was only doing his job), saying stuff like, “Kau ingat kau bagus sangat”.. “Jaga kau”.. etc, then got in his cab (still smoking) and drove away. The cop continued with the other cars along the stretch….[…]

    Ten minutes later, the cab was back at the bus stop, after the cop had left.

  25. Ritchie says:

    Lets not conveniently forget cases of women being forcibly raped in police stations, and those who were forced to perform oral sex on the so-called officers of the law. And you expect Penan women who were raped to trust them? We have a police force who are nothing but errand boys for Umno and their bidding.

  26. farida ibrahim says:

    Hi Jacqueline,

    Thank you for this article.

    God bless.

  27. Ritchie says:

    Many in our country have lost respect for the police, their impartiality, and partisan support of political parties has made this nation oppressed.

  28. Joon says:

    Do we feel safe in our own neighbourhood? Can a woman walk out alone at 9pm to the kedai runcit? Do we dare to take an evening walk alone without the need to hold a stick? What do all the guarded housing schemes, mostly set up by the RA, tell us about how safe they feel?

    No doubt that there are good cops but too few to make a difference. The cops must be serious in fighting crime and putting the bad in jail. Some cops are just out there to cari makan.

  29. bolehlander says:

    Most grateful to read your accurate, unbiased and factual article on PDRM’s state of affairs. The fact that our nation has deteriorated to this nadir where even the protectors of law and order are shamelessly committing crimes against fellow citizens as well as foreigners is sad and disappointing in the eyes of the Malaysian rakyat.

    Who is responsible for this? There is no simple answer, but the BN ruling parties are undoubtedly advocating for this, both in words and in deeds. They must be denied any representation in the next election!

  30. lezzo says:

    Nice one, Jacqueline. The fact that IGP Musa got another extention of his term clearly shows what kind of police force the government wants. And enough reason for me not to trust the police. Maybe there are honest police [officers] out there, but I doubt they’d be able to climb the corrupt ladder, and will probably stay as traffic officers or the like.

  31. Brandon says:

    Excellent article. PDRM is 3rd or even 4th world police mentality. Just watch – PDRM is going to find reasons to harass the author or The Nut Graph.

  32. Wan Adli says:

    I think it [would be] interesting to do a research on why [a] career as a police officer is the last resort for [most] Malaysians. I think people have never heard of any first-class university graduates choosing to be a Malaysian police officer.

    Malaysian police officers are among the laziest creatures on earth … They are also, despite having opinions on everything, not accustomed to opening their mind to other people’s perspectives. Maybe this is because they are indoctrinated with a kind of modern-secular-Malay-[Malaysian]-nationalism, which they cannot do without in order to climb their hierarchies. Maybe to be a police officer, they have to close their minds and just follow orders. I think this is reasonable, otherwise there will be disorder in the ranks. But maybe because of this, when they finally arrive at the top of the hierarchy, they are unable to think anymore …

    I don’t think half of Malaysia’s police officers have enough intellect to distinguish between their executive responsibilities and favours to their political masters; between good rezeki, i.e. their small income, and a much higher buah tangan.

    Crime is not a matter of numbers; one theft, one rape, one murder is bad enough. Of course, for some, one layperson being murdered is nothing compared to one kerabat being murdered.

  33. Zozo says:

    Najib Razak “Iron 1Malaysia”
    – using “Iron Fist” method to control the people of Malaysia, who [are] against him
    – using “Iron Maiden” toward the people who ask [for freedom for Malaysia]
    – using “iron curtain” policy by controlling enforcement and using it as tools to violate human rights

  34. sam says:

    A well written piece by Surin, who knows how to use her “pen” and make it sharper than a knife.

    When the police distributed flyers at my taman requesting residents to inform then should we leave the house empty while out of town, this is what the residents said,”Think we will inform them? They will come and ransack our homes.”


  35. Mr. T says:

    The basic problem with our police force is corruption at the top. The regular police officers look at their bosses driving around in their illegally gained big cars and big houses, say to themselves, “What about me?” The campaign to stamp out corruption can’t be done if you don’t tackle top-level corruption. It’s hypocritical.

    Unfortunately for us, corruption is so deeply rooted and ingrained in the government that it isn’t even considered illegal. The culture of entitlement has made it impossible to clean up our police.

    That said, the average policeman is a nice enough. They would love to be honest if given more pay and respect. They don’t get any support from their corrupt bosses. Fix that problem first.

  36. Faz says:

    Let me tell you a true story. My friend’s handphone rang in the early hours of the morning. When she picked it up, it showed the number of a mutual friend of ours. But all she could hear were sounds of muffled voices talking to one another in what sounded like foreign language. My friend immediately suspected something was wrong, so she woke her husband. Her husband shouted into the phone repeatedly, calling for their mutual friend. There was no answer, only muffled voices and sounds.

    Their house was obviously being robbed, and somehow the handphone got connected to my friend’s handphone. My friend called the police, and her husband went to their mutual friend’s house. When her husband arrived, the front of the house appeared normal, except the front door was open. Shortly, the police also arrived. They started to call from outside, but no reply.

    Here’s the kicker. The police, with their guns, told my friend’s husband, “You masuk dulu!” […] By the time they went in, the thieves had gone. Money, computer, valuables all stolen, plus the handphone. Luckily, our mutual friend and his family slept through it all and were not harmed.

    Malaysian police — incompetent, partisan, corrupted, ineffective, and now I will add: cowardly.

  37. hatimarah says:

    As long as the present Inspector General Of Police (IGP) reigns [over] the PDRM, don’t expect changes in any government policies. I haven’t heard anything, not even a squeak, from the prime minister on matters related to police and the general public. So much has happened in the country where (refer to Jacqueline’s writing) the police acted in contradiction to the law when handling the general public and yet nothing from the minister in charge of the police, especially Hishammuddin.

    Even worse, when anything happens with regards to public disorder as a result of police intervention even the minister will issue a statement supporting the police, especially those ministers who have something in common with the police crooks. So, crooks and gangsters gang up together [to] run the country as mafia heads.

    My assesment is come 2013, it’s the end of Bee End so till then have to be patient.

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