Why did Norazita die?

The murder cum robbery of Norazita Abu Talib shocked the nation. She was brutally shot in the face by a security guard who was said to possess a fake identity card. The senseless death of the Ambank officer late last month has opened yet another can of worms pertaining to our worsening crime situation.

Why did Norazita have to die like that? Let me be blunt here; yes, we can blame UMNO leadership – for refusing to reform the police and for allowing cronies to run security firms.

There’s no need to cringe or get upset. Please bear with me. The facts are all there.

Criminals everywhere, yet they are looking for Communists

While the crime rate is high and the situation is said to be worsening – murder, rape and other violent crimes – the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional government is still obsessed with the Communists!

Our police are still operating in the Cold War mode as if the Communists are still lurking around the corner, notwithstanding the fact that Chin Peng is long gone and that the Haatyai Peace Treaty between the Malaysian Government and the Communist Party of Malaya was signed in December 1989. That was 24 years ago.

Yet Budget 2014 still allocates money to hunt for communists. (risikan keselamatan – “menjamin keselamatan negara melalui aktiviti risikan keselamatan secara sulit dan terbuka keatas ancaman komunis, anasir-anasir subversif dan pelampau, perisikan, pengintipan dalam negeri dan ancaman luar negara. – page 644).

As I said before, the crime rate is high. Never mind the police and the government statistics that suggest otherwise. Fear of crime drives demand for private security protection. In Kuala Lumpur, we can see the mushrooming boom-gates and guardhouses in middle class housing estates in recent years.

Hence, I was dumbfounded to read Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s Parliamentary reply to Er Teck Hwa, MP for Bakri, that the crime rate has fallen by half between 2008 and 2013. Is he actually referring to Malaysia?

While there are enough police personnel per capita (approximately 110,000 police to 28 million people), only a fraction is involved in direct crime fighting. Omnipresence of the police and quality investigation are two most important factors, yet half of the police personnel are in management, logistics (12 percent), special branch (5 percent), riot police (3 percent), and the communist-fighting paramilitary unit General Operation Force (15 percent)!

No reforms, more crimes, more overworked crime fighters

As a result, police patrols are not adequate enough. Crime investigators are overstretched and overworked. Only less than 10 percent of the police force are in the crime investigation department, with only about 2,000 are ranked inspectors and above with full authority to investigate. The heavy workload forces many to sleep on old sofas in ill-equipped police stations. My sympathy is with them.

The things you learn from CSI – whether in the TV series or in real life in some other developed and recently-developed countries – won’t apply here for obvious reasons. Science and intelligence-based investigations are a rarity in Malaysia. Confession-based investigation is still the order of the day.

Former Prime Minster Tun Abdullah Badawi announced the formation of a royal commission headed by former Chief Justice TunDzaiddin in December 2003 and a comprehensive 600-page report was submitted in May 2005. I guess the thick book is gathering dust right now.

And here come the private security firms

With high crime incidences and the refusal of the BN government to shift police priority from fighting communists to crime busting, it’s no surprise that there is a huge ready market for private security protection.

At first glance there seems nothing wrong with it. Private security firms must be highly controlled and firmly regulated. Once upon a time, it was extremely difficult for anyone to obtain a license to operate a private security firm.

In October 2011, the Home Ministry informed me in a Parliamentary reply that there were 584 security firms registered with the government. Two years later, the number jumped to 751.

The 2011 parliamentary reply claimed that there were 160,000 Malaysian security guards and another 1,049 Nepali former soldiers.

Now The Star reported (on 6th November 2013) that there are 400,000 security guards, of whom 150,000 are illegal foreign workers!

According to the Parliamentary reply: “lesen 2 (a) (syarikat kawalan keselamatan) adalah mengikut syarat-syarat seperti berikut:

a) Salah seorang pemegang saham terdiri daripada sekurang-kurangnya bekas pegawai tinggi Polis DiRaja Malaysia atau Angkatan Tentera DiRaja Malaysia yang berpangkat sekurang-kurangnya SAC II ATAU Kolonel yang memegang 30% ekuiti saham syarikat; ATAU

b) Salah seorang terdiri daripada sekurang-kurangnya bekas pegawai awam dalam kumpulan Pengurusan dan Professional yang pernah berkhidmat dalam sektor keselamatan selama sekurang-kurangnya lima (5) tahun yang berpangkat sekurang-kurangnya Gred 52 atau yang mempunyai sijil kursus keselamatan atau yang setaraf dengannya memegang 30% ekuiti saham syarikat.

c) Hendaklah ditubuhkan syarikat Sdn Bhd.

d) Mempunyai modal berbayar RM300,000.

e) Pegangan saham syarikat dimiliki oleh Bumiputra sebanyak 70%.

It seems that it’s not that difficult to set up a private security service firm in Malaysia.

Private security firms – why we can blame UMNO leadership

The root of the problem lies in UMNO-led privatisation – three phases of Build-Operate-Transfer of infrastructures – which was the main model in the 1980s, exemplified by the North South Highway. In the 1990s, utilities were privatised in a big way such as to independent power producers. Post-2000, UMNO was increasingly relying on its licensing power to placate an ever expanding lobby for contracts, permits, licenses and favours.

There can only be a certain amount of construction contracts to be dished out. But licenses and permits are more elastic. For instance, millions of foreign workers were and are still being brought into the labour force, resulting in a race to the bottom of wages for low end workers, many of whom are Malays.

In the private security sector, licenses used to be given only to very senior retired police chiefs or generals. But in recent years, UMNO politicians and their proxies received most of the new licenses.

For quick money, the UMNO-linked licensees are prepared to do anything. And there is practically no scrutiny. So, thanks to them, we become a nation of mercenaries in the form of foreign guards.

Failure of government, greedy cronies

The usual reply given whenever one is asked why locals are not hired is that “locals don’t want to work because the salary is low”.

This is always the wrong question to ask. In the current job market context, if a security guard is paid RM2,500 per month, I am sure many locals would rush to become one, especially former members of the armed forces and police, many of whom are forced by circumstances to become taxi drivers. But then again, junior entry level police are also very lowly paid.

So someone will ask, why should we pay security guards so much money? The private security firms even objected to a proposed RM700 per month minimum wage for security guards in 2011. It is as if they want to pay the lowest salary to the person is who is supposed to protect our life and our property.

What I am suggesting is that we must take an approach to understand the total and actual cost of public policies. Once everyone realises that it is not cheap to maintain law and order through private means, at some point the pressure will be on the government to improve on overall security and safety so that no one needs to hire private security protection.

And, ultimately we must ask ourselves, why do governments exist? Any Politics 101 course would parade Thomas Hobbes’ notion that government exists as “the necessary evil” to ensure that law of the jungle is not the order of the day, that there is peace and order. That’s the most essential duty of any government.

Hence, Norazita died because government policies have failed her. She died because the ruling elites were more interested in dishing out permits and licenses, and not interested to take a hard look at the real crime situation. She died because there was no police reform to refocus police’s priorities to curb crime. And she died because cronies’ interests triumphed over ordinary people’s concerns.

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