“We can’t question the rakyat’s expectation that the Police Force respond efficiently and effectively with integrity and fairness. This is their right and, therefore, it’s our responsibility” – Tan Sri Musa Hassan
The Royal Malaysian Police or PDRM (Polis DiRaja Malaysia) in Bahasa Malaysia has been around for over 200 years. It traced its origins to the Malacca Sultanate of yore. The modern-day police took shape on March 25, 1807, in Penang. Policing duties later extended to the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States, as British colonial hegemony and commercial interests grew. It was strictly a state affair.
The centralisation of the police force came about only after World War II when the Civil Affairs Police Force was formed.
The British Adminis-tration had to rebuild a demoralised police force caused by the Japanese invaders. The ensuing struggle by the outlawed Malayan Communist Party forestalled these restructuring programmes, as attention was focused on blunting the Communist threat. During Malaysia’s confrontation with Indonesia (1962 to 1966), police personnel, along with soldiers, were deployed in Johore and Sabah to thwart Indonesian infiltrators.
The title “Royal” was bestowed on the force in July 1958 by the nation’s first Agong. When Malaysia was formed in September 1963, the Royal Federation of Malayan Police, the North Borneo Armed Constabulary and Sarawak Constabulary merged and the present-day PDRM came into being.
So how far has the nation’s police force progressed since the heady days of the 1800s? Judging from comments in the media, the rakyat’s perception of PDRM is rather poor. The major grouse concerns its inability to combat crime, especially in the urban areas. The recent dialogue between residents of Canning Garden, Simee and Ipoh Garden and the city police is a good indicator of this dichotomy. One resident lamented that it was no longer safe to walk in his neighbourhood after 6 p.m. Another bemoaned the lack of police presence in residential areas. Incidents of snatch thefts, robberies and petty thefts are on the rise and the Police seem powerless to contain them. These are major worries and perception, being what it is, will remain unchanged.
Statistics have been liberally used to show a downward trend in criminal activities. The reluctance of victims reporting to the Police is the reason. Many incidents of thefts and robberies go unreported largely because the victims do not see the necessity of making such attempts. “It’s too troublesome”, said the owner of a photo studio which was burgled last February.
The thief entered his shop through the roof, disarmed the alarm system and carted nearly RM40, 000 worth of cameras, lenses and petty cash. The intruder tried to dismantle a CCTV camera but failed and in the process an image of him was captured.Armed with the photo, the owner lodged a report but nothing was forthcoming. The same culprit was again caught on camera traipsing through a house at night in Taman Merdeka. Another report and yet another dead end. Even with photographic evidence, no arrest or identification has been made to date.
Frustration of Ipohites
This is the kind of frustration that confronts Ipohites on a daily basis. A feeling of impotence seems to dog those entrusted with the care of the nation’s security. In spite of assurances and reassurances by senior police officers during dialogues and meetings, residents have not warmed up to them. Most are skeptical. They want admissions not denials, actions not words, facts not fictions and results not figures.
Cars are hijacked. Even taxis are being targetted, what more necklaces and hand bags. All are fair game for these hardened criminals.
The days of the mata-mata making their rounds on foot and bicycles are long gone. Pak Abu, the constable on the beat, in my kampong in the 50s and 60s, was one fellow we rowdies would not dare to tangle with. The mere sight of him on his rickety bone-shaker would send shivers down our spines. Today you hardly see them, less for the ubiquitous traffic cops and the occasional patrol cars, with flashing blue lights, passing by.
PDRM Under Siege?
The Perak Police contingent observed the 203rd Police Day on March 25 with an impressive parade at the contingent headquarters. Deputy CPO, SAC 1 Dato’ Zakaria Yusof, delivered the IGP’s speech . “We cannot question the rakyat’s expectations that the Police Force respond efficiently and effectively with integrity and fairness. This is their right and, therefore, it’s our responsibility.” Is this sufficient to shore up confidence in the force? I can’t possibly say.
Hopefully, the new restructuring exercise and a pay revision will spur the personnel to greater heights.
A third force, said the IGP, was meddling in the affairs of the police. The Home Minister refuted the IGP’s claim. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, an Umno stalwart, made this pronouncement recently. “Before we can pursue meaningful economic strategy we need to get our house in order. We need to undertake bold reforms to restore the independence of the police, the anti-corruption commission and the judiciary”.
Restore the independence of the police? This is very interesting. Is PDRM under siege? I don’t have an answer.
Whatever it is, people’s expectations are high, and so are their hopes.