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?
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.
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.
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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