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Sandra Rajoo brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Who’s the criminal?

What do people feel when they see police officers?  Safe or scared? For businesswoman Lim Hui Hui it is the latter. On March 24 she was forcefully arrested by police who had been tailing her car. At the police station, she was humiliated and abused; she was sexually assaulted by a policewoman, pinned down and stepped on, and denied legal counsel.

She lodged a complaint but was not taken seriously. Apparently, no action can be taken against the culprits until some investigation is underway. The Brickfields deputy OCPD Supt Aida Abdul Hamid even said that if they were to ‘suspend police officers every time there is a complaint, we will then have no officers on duty’. This must mean that the number of complaints against the police is exceptionally high, which in turn means our policemen not only need retraining on policing, but also need to be policed themselves.

Gone are the days when one feels safe and protected at the police station.

Even one RELA member is still one too many

If trained policemen have problems understanding proper enforcement procedures and human rights, can we expect any better from the People Volunteer Corps (RELA) who are not officially trained? There are 3 million RELA members in our midst today, and that is a mindboggling number, especially if we don’t know what kind of power they wield.

The question now is, do we need RELA or has it become irrelevant, given that the 1969 Emergency Ordinance (EO) has been revoked. Do we not have enough law enforcers? REFSA’s research reveals adequate numbers in the police force. We believe that if they are professionally redeployed, a more organised and efficient administration will ensue. The Bar Council’s recommendation that the money poured into RELA should be better used for upgrading our police force has merit and is worth acting on.

Coincidentally, a recent incident allegedly committed by RELA members is a red flag. A group of them took matters into their own hands, causing the death of a Nigerian in Kajang. The incident caused a near riot by 150 Africans.

So, do we run in the opposite direction when RELA appears?

Home Minister’s Maths: 3 + 7 + 17 = 14

While the public’s valid complaints are ignored, deaths while in custody are regarded as trivial. The authorities’ lackadaisical attitude towards this matter was confirmed when the Home Minister could not even quote the actual number of people who had died in detention.  He cited a total of 14 in 2009 – consisting of ‘three who died in prison, seven in police custody and 17 at Immigration detention depots’, which don’t add up literally! These erroneous figures were in his written parliamentary reply to DAP’s Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching. To confound the matter further, he gave another set of figures (in 2010,  ‘13 people’ had died in custody, ‘one in prison, nine in police custody and 18 at Immigration detention depots’) which also don’t tally, confirming that the inaccuracy was no typo error.  Does one need to be an expert in Maths to do simple addition?

Has this ‘inability’ to make things add up to do with something lacking in our education system which, according to our Education Minister, is better than that in the UK, US and Germany?  This claim appears doubtful, and as DAP Publicity Chief Tony Pua points out, the PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment ) 2009 report states that ‘Malaysian students were ranked 55th in terms of literacy, 57th in Mathematics and 52nd for Science literacy from a total of 74 countries surveyed’. Put on your thinking caps to figure this one out.

The moral of the story – Maths requires analytical, critical and logical thinking; if you don’t have that, obviously you can’t do Maths.

More numbers that don’t add up

While the Home Ministry is having difficulty doing basic Math, the public has to deal with another kind of difficulty – electoral reform not materialising. Though the parliamentary select committee (PSC) has come up with some changes, the areas that seriously need amending are not getting their due attention. A minority report listing some pertinent recommendations is apparently inadmissible in Parliament.

The minority report proposes that (1) it is illegal for the EC to change voters’ constituencies, (2) 42,000 voters whose citizenship is not confirmed by the National Registration Department (NRD) be removed, (3) the EC should investigate and verify 1000 voters older than 100 years, (4) the NRD checks the 15,000 voters whose gender does not tally with the last number in their MyKad (even number is for female, odd for male), (5) the status of 45,000 spouses of police officers, who are not eligible to be postal voters, should be changed to normal voters.

Unfortunately, the minority report was thrown out and the PSC report was passed by a majority vote, conveniently, without being debated.

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive...