While the public remains sceptical on the police force, maintaining peace in the public sphere is a tall order
By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By TMR
The transition of power that took place on May 9 last year may have been peacefully achieved, but underlying tensions on race and religion remain a constant threat to national security. While the public remains sceptical on the police force, maintaining peace in the public sphere is a tall order.
It was not a suprise then that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had given the Home Ministry (KDN) portfolio to a senior member of his coalition, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture). At 71, Muhyiddin is the second-oldest Cabinet minister in the current line-up after the nonagenarian.
With nearly five decades worth of experience in governance under his belt, Muhyiddin has managed to keep the house in order while helping to fulfil promises listed in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto.
Speaking at a news conference in Putrajaya recently, ahead of the coalition’s one-year anniversary in power, Muhyiddin listed some of the ministry’s key achievements in the past year:
Restoring Trust in the Police Force
His commitment to reform the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) has seen three elite teams being scrapped, with several other Bukit Aman departments currently being reshuffled. The restructuring also witnessed the appointment of Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador as the new Inspector-General Police (IGP) last week.
The new alignment at PDRM will allow the police force to play its roles more efficiently and effectively in safeguarding the country, said Muhyiddin, who is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s president.
Apart from management changes, PDRM is also expected to review its standard operating procedures (SOPs) and make improvisations to avoid conflict and misunderstandings when dealing with the public.
An example of this can be seen earlier in March, when the police force introduced a new SOP to handle persons with autism in light of the case involving 22-year-old Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi last year.
Ahmad Ziqri was arrested for allegedly touching a woman’s chest after a birthday celebration at a restaurant. He spent the night in police lock-up before taken to court to be remanded the next day.
The police’s application for a four-day remand was denied by the Petaling Jaya magistrate’s court, and Ahmad Ziqri was subsequently released on police bail.
Thousands of people showed their support via an online petition days later, calling for Ahmad Ziqri to be fairly treated and for the authorities to review its SOP when dealing with persons with disabilities.
Former IGP Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said following the incident, a task force was set up for six months to work on a new set of guidelines to investigate people with autism. The task force had engaged experts from local universities to advise them on the matter.
Another issue being addressed within the police force is the over-capacity of prisons. Malaysia has a maximum capacity to accommodate 45,000 prisoners but is currently serving over 66,000 inmates.
Muhyiddin said a bulk of the detainees had been involved with drugs. “We have to see. The ones that deal with the usage of drugs, we will see if they can be treated,” he said.
The severity of prison overcrowding had prompted one prison to make inmates sleep in shifts due to the lack of beds. A 10-person cell housing 20 prisoners will see 10 prisoners sleeping while the other 10 stands behind bars.
Crackdown on Illegal Immigrants
With over four million foreigners in Malaysia thought to be illegal immigrants, the government initiated a major crackdown on illegal foreign workers at end-August last year to contain the situation.
This came after a four-year amnesty programme, which enabled illegal immigrants to pay a RM300 fine and a RM100 fee for a special pass allowing them to return home, ended on Aug 30, 2018.
Muhyiddin, who chairs a special joint committee with the Ministry of Human Resources (MoHR) on foreign workers and illegal immigrants, said a total of 11,234 illegal immigrants have been arrested for various offences between January and March this year.
The committee is now working to identify the actual demand for foreign workers in different sectors, after a decision was made in October last year to discontinue the practice of outsourcing foreign worker recruitment to agencies.
It was decided that the MoHR’s private employment agency will take over the task of recruiting foreign workers, affecting about 100 companies handling over 26,000 foreign workers involved in the outsourcing system. Talks with the companies were said to be held soon after.
The government also intends to implement a multi-tier levy system by Jan 1, 2020. It was previously reported that the system would result in a minimum 20% increase in levy, depending on sector.
Putting Out Racial Fires
The recent rally held at the city centre in protest of Pakatan Harapan’s alleged lack of interest in preserving the interest of the Malay-Muslim majority might be viewed as another example of growing unease where race and religion is concerned.
The ruling coalition has been accused of dismissing the interest of the Malay-Muslim community, with its proposed ratifications of the Rome Statute and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate and the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim in the Seafield temple riots.
Muhyiddin has rejected the notion, saying that 53 cases of insults to Islam and Prophet Muhammad have been investigated with eight being brought to the courts.
“There are those who claim the status of Islam under Pakatan Harapan is being challenged. As a leader in a multiracial and multi-religious country, I would like to advise Malaysians to preserve the harmony between races.
“Do not be easily influenced by those who take the opportunity to gain political interests and fuel racial and religious sentiments,” said Muhyiddin, adding that people must accept the fact that Malaysians come from diverse backgrounds.
“We know that there has been extreme history of racial provocations, which is then exploited by those irresponsible. But what is important is that we need awareness from all members of society that we have passed that stage. Islam is enshrined in our Constitution. No one should abuse it for political interests or to create tension, for the country will lose and the people will suffer,” he said.
The Pagoh MP has also downplayed the fiery exchanges between Dr Mahathir and Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, saying that the government and the royal institution are on good terms.
“The relationship is good. It has always been good. I don’t think one or two incidents give an indication that we don’t have a good relationship with the rulers,” Muhyiddin said.
“The royals are constitutional monarchs. Their role is defined in the Constitution. In a democracy like Malaysia, if we follow the Constitution, whether we are regular citizens, the government or the
royalty, then there won’t be a problem,” he added.
Improving racial ties may not be an overnight work, but the government needs to act on it fast to ensure all the good is achieved, since May 9 last year, would not be undone.