POLICE AND CRIME IN MALAYSIA

CRIME IN MALAYSIA

Malaysia has among the world’s lowest crime and drug use rates (partly because the punishments are so harsh) and Malaysians are generally a very law-abiding people. Violent crime almost never occurs and petty crime is rare but occurs from time to time. But still people worry about crime. According to a media report reported by The Star in 2013, as much as 52.9 percent of the population surveyed are affected by the fear of crime. [Source: The Star, May 14, 2013]

In the early 2000s, gang members disguised as tourists hijacked an airport bus and made off with cash and valuables of the passengers, which included some foreign tourists form China, Japan, the United States, Australia and the Philippines.

In January 2010, Associated Press reported: “Malaysian police have arrested a Lebanese man allegedly carrying fake currency with a face value of $66 million after he tipped a hotel staff with a $500 note, news reports said Friday. The largest U.S. note currently in circulation is a $100 bill. But police found bundles of $1 million, $100,000 and $500 notes in the man’s hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, the New Straits Times and The Star newspapers reported. Hotel staff reportedly alerted police Sunday after a housekeeper received a $500 note tip and found out it was fake when she tried to convert it to local currency at a money changer. The man could be charged for possessing counterfeit money and, if found guilty, face up to 10 years in jail, The Star said. A police spokesman could not immediately give further details. The largest U.S. note ever printed was a special edition one for $100,000 in 1934. Bills of $500 were last printed in 1945 and are now no longer in wide circulation, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. This is not the first time the man has been in trouble with the law in Malaysia, the reports said. A Malaysian court charged him last week with cheating over the sale of office supplies in 2005 in a separate case. Cheating, or fraud, carries a maximum penalty of five years. [Source: AP, January 14, 2010]

Piracy in Malaysia, See Southeast Asia

Rising Crime Rate in Malaysia

In recent years reports of vicious crimes like murder, kidnapping, armed robbery have been almost a daily occurrence in on local newspapers. AFP reported in 2012: “Crime is perceived to be on the rise in Malaysia, and the government has said it will address Malaysians' increasing fears. Police say statistics show they have managed to reduce crime, but anecdotes of break-ins, snatching and violent crimes abound in papers and on social media.”

In May 2007, Reuters reported: “Burglaries, shootouts in shopping malls and motorcycle-borne bag snatchers are just some of the hazards” people face in Malaysia. “Kuala Lumpur resident Simonetta Roma, 35, was returning from church one evening when two men on a passing motorbike grabbed at her handbag. The next moment, she was being dragged along the street. "I saw these two guys passing by on a bike, and the next time I saw them I was on the road," said Roma, an Italian who was seven months' pregnant at the time. "It all happened so fast." She escaped with just cuts and bruises, but many are not so lucky: often bag-snatch victims are dragged head-first into the pavement with such force they are either killed or left with injuries such as skull fractures or broken bones. [Source: Reuters, March 18, 2007]

Police figures show that crime in Malaysia rose 14 percent last year to 225,836 incidents against 198,017 in 2005, and the proportion of serious crimes, such as murder, rape and armed robbery, grew 26 percent. Opposition politicians cast doubt on police data, saying they do not reflect the true problem because people lack confidence in the force, and leave many crimes unreported.

Yet there is a bright spot -- the crooks see only fast bucks. "I was worried the thieves would go online with my credit cards and buy things," said snatch-theft victim Simonetta Roma. "But my bag was found with cards intact, though everything else was gone."

In March 2007, Bernama reported from Johor Bahu: The brother of a state assemblyman was brutally beaten and robbed outside his house by four men early today. Low Ee Chong, 51, was about to go to his coffee shop when four men, armed with sticks, pulled up in a Toyota Unser. Low, who was outside his home in Taman Daya, started running when he saw the four coming towards him. They chased him into a back alley and assaulted him. The incident was witnessed by Low's wife who screamed for help. She was ordered to shut up before one of the robbers snatched her gold necklace. Low, who is the younger brother of Pengkalan Rinting state assemblyman Low Teh Hian, is now warded at the Sultan Ismail Hospital where he is being treated for a broken arm, concussion and bruises on his back.

His family said Low has no known enemies. His wife, Yeo Ai Chan, said the incident occurred at about 7am when Low was waiting for his sister-in-law to pick him up as she normally did. Yeo was in the porch with her 22-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son. Low had just stepped out of the gate when the assailants appeared. "Seeing the men, my husband ran to the back lane but they chased him," Yeo said. "I could only watch helplessly as they hit him repeatedly with sticks and kicked him. He was on the ground, but they did not stop. "It lasted for about five minutes. I thought my husband would be killed."

The men took Low's handphone and RM1,000 before fleeing. Yeo said this was the second such incident reported in the neighbourhood in the past two weeks. "My neigbour staying across the street was also robbed by thugs who were armed with axes," she said.

Though the government paints a rosy picture of the economy, crime is being fuelled by a volatile mix of factors that includes a huge migrant labour force, the rising cost of living and a vast gulf of deprivation between rich and poor, one analyst said. "Having a more effective police force would help," said political analyst and activist Chandra Muzaffar, adding that crucial reform steps suggested in 2005 by a sweeping inquiry into Malaysia's police force had yet to carried out. "That is a pity and it shows a lack of political will and an inability to exercise one's authority," he said.

Ah Longs: Malaysian Loan Sharks

Ah Long is a colloquial term for illegal loan sharks in Malaysia and Singapore. They lend money to people who are unable to obtain loans from banks or other legal sources, mostly targeting habitual gamblers. Often, they discreetly advertise by sticking notices, mostly on lamp posts and utility boxes around a neighbourhood, thus vandalising public property, as authorities have to then remove such advertisements. They charge very high interest rates (generally about 40 percent per month/fortnight) and frequently threaten violence (and administer it) towards those who fail to pay in time. [Source: Wikipedia]

When a person fails to pay in time, the Ah Long will spray paint, splash, or write threats in paint or markers on the walls of the house or property of that person as a threat of violence and to scare, and perhaps even shame, the borrower into repaying the loan. A common use of painting includes the characters "O$P$" meaning "owe money, pay money", as well as the debtors' unit number. According to local police authorities, there have been cases where borrowers and even their family members were beaten or had their property damaged or destroyed, and some victims have committed suicide. In other cases, flowerpots placed outside the debtors' units were smashed, debtors' house gates have been tied up with cable ties and at the extreme, debtors' property such as their house door/gate or their cars have been burnt.

Pig heads are sometimes hung outside the borrower's house, as a type of intimidation as well as a way of 'marking' the person as a loan 'defaulter'. Ah Long sometimes break into victim's houses and steal items of the loan's value. This method is commonly used to save time and also effort. Recent cases shows that Ah Longs also display the borrower's identity card on a huge banner and post it on fences. Since Ah Longs need only an identity card from borrowers, this tactic is becoming common because it shames the borrower publicly into paying up. Borrowers often use outdated identity cards to borrow money, with the intent to not pay what they owe. As a result, unsuspecting house owners end up paying the price of receiving the Ah Long tactics of intimidation. Since they are not the borrowers, the intimidation does not stop and the Ah Long will keep on harassing them.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ah Longs

The blog Sam’s Alfresco Heaven reports: 1) How much can I borrow? As a new client, the most they give you is $500. Some need gurantor, some don't need. Once you settle this $500, they will increase your limit so next time you need, they can loan up to $1000. As time goes by, $3000, $4000 also can loan. 2) What is the payment like ? Different syndicates different methods. Some will deduct the 20 percent interest from the loan amount upfront. eg. $1000, you take $800. Some give $1000 loan but take back $1200. 3) How long is the payment ? Normally is 4 weeks. eg. $1000 = 4x$250 or 4x$300 Some gives you 5 weeks. eg. $1000 - 5x$200 or 5x$240 [Source: Sam’s Alfresco Heaven, March 3, 2009]

4) How many loans can I get ? Some ah long give you up to 3 loans. eg. 3 loans of $500. Some will intro their "colleagues" and you get loan from them. But actually is all same syndicate. So without you knowing, you might be borrowing $6000 from 3 different ah long but all same syndicate. 5) How to get ? Call them up, they will ask for your NRIC, address, name. Then they will go check their database to see if you are a bad debtors. Once clear, they will send a runner to meet you to check your IC. Some kiasu will meet you at your door to make sure you really stay there. The runners will also do an inspection on your unit to see if there are any previous ah long markings. This means you are a bad debtor with another syndicate. Verification will cost about $10 or $20 payable in cash to the runner.

6) What if I miss one installment ? They will term it as "cut". Meaning you add another week of payment. eg. $1000 loan = you pay 2 weeks of $200 (Remaining 3 weeks). But 3rd week you cant pay, means they add one more week. So now you still left 4 weeks of payment = $800 7) What if I cant pay on the deadline? Some ah long can neg. give you one or two more days. If cannot neg, then refer to point; 8) What if I didnt answer their call ? You better answer, cos if the deadline they never hear from you, means you run road and actions will be taken

9) What kind of actions ? Actions range from splash paint at your door, scribble o$p$ at your lift lobby. Worse is splash paint at your neighbour doors. (Just apologise and help the clean up) Worst is set fire on your door or splash paint at random cars. 10) What do I need to do if point 9 happens ? First dont touch anything, Call police, lodge report, let them take photo. Then clean your gate and door using thinner. Call town council for their cleaners to come re-paint those writings on the wall. This is F.O.C. 11) What prevention measure can I take ? Wrap plastic sheets on your windows and doors. Normally they see wont splash cos waste of time. But they might target your neighbours house. Install CCTV cameras. But is to deter those newbie runners. Hardcore runners wont even hack care if their face is shown. Some wear helmets, umbrella and mask so CCTV no point also. 12) When will it ends ? From experience, I think they come up one time splash paint, you never response, they will stop cos no point also.

New Dirty Tricks of Ah Longs

Cao Baoying wrote in My Paper, “A new tactic being used by loan sharks to pressure debtors was exposed on Stomp this week. Now, instead of harassing just the debtors, the loan sharks also send hell notes threatening harm to their neighbours. Stomper Zubin wrote in to Stomp after receiving hell notes in his letterbox, accompanied by a threatening letter warning that "something nasty" would happen to him if his neighbour did not pay up. Zubin mused about how "Ah Longs" these days do not simply shout and threaten people with parangs. Instead, they are getting more organised and "even bother spending 26 cents" on a stamp to send hell notes and letters to the debtors' neighbours. This is just one of the e-mail messages that Stomp received recently about the evolving tactics of loan sharks. [Source: Cao Baoying, My Paper, January 5, 2013]

One new tactic employed by loan sharks is to transfer money into victims' accounts, before demanding that they return the cash with interest. Stomper Kenji, who was one such victim, was shocked when he received a text message from an unknown person, informing him that a loan of $380 had been transferred to his POSB account. The sender also demanded that Kenji make weekly repayments of $160. Kenji later received a call and was told that if he did not pay up, his parents would die. The Stomper decided to make a police report.

Stomper Cool Sapphie received a phone call asking her to take up a loan. She said the caller identified himself as a loan shark, and added that he knew all her personal details. He asked her to "pay him weekly till he's happy", or pay a one-time sum of $3,000 to settle the matter. Sapphie refused and reported the matter to the police. However, the caller still threatened her, and said that there was no point reporting the matter to the police. She wondered how innocent parties could be threatened in this manner, and how her details were leaked.

A month after Stomper MS moved into a flat in Toa Payoh Lorong 8, the police informed him one night that a fire had occurred outside the unit. MS found out later that the fire was probably started by loan sharks, who were harassing the former owner of the flat. Unfortunately for the Stomper, the loan sharks did not seem to be aware that the debtor had moved out. The Stomper, who has a seven-year-old daughter, is worried about his family's safety. MS hopes his Stomp report will make it known to the loan sharks that the flat has changed hands. The Stomper feels that he should not have to live in fear because of the irresponsible attitude of the former owner and the loan sharks' viciousness.

In February 2013, The New Strait Times reported: “A woman and her family are living in fear as they are constantly harassed by an Ah Long (loan shark) group because of the husband's debts. Their house here was broken into by three men, who took cash and jewellery. The suspects were believed to be members of the group. The woman, who wanted to be known only as Suzy, in her 30s, said she was awakened by an explosion in the 5.30am incident. At first, she thought it was firecrackers, but then she saw the three men, armed with guns. "One of them pointed his gun at me and ordered me to sit on the floor while the other two entered my daughter's room. "All of them wore masks. They ransacked the house and took away my personal belongings." At the time of the incident, her three daughters, aged between 7 and 13, were at home. Her husband, a hawker, was away. "They left behind 10 bullets, two hand grenades and drugs. They also warned us not to lodge a police report," she said, estimating her losses to be more than RM30,000. Manjung district police chief Assistant Commissioner Jaafar Baba confirmed the incident and said police were tracking down the suspects. [Source: New Strait Times, February 1, 2013]

'Underwear Gang' and Shooting a Woman, Mistaking her for a Monkey

In March 2009, AFP reported: “Police said a man in Malaysia shot his neighbor as she picked sapodilla fruit in his tree thinking she was a monkey. Police chief in eastern Pahang state Yahaya Othman said the woman was gathering fruit Thursday when her neighbor shot her. Yahaya said the man came home and saw rustling in the tree and fired into it. "Then there was screaming ... and only then did he know it was his neighbor." He said the woman was hospitalized with a wound to the abdomen but her condition was stable Friday. He said police were investigating the man, a volunteer security corps member, for illegally discharging a firearm, which carries a maximum prison term of two years. [Source: AP, March , 13, 2009]

In September 2003, AFP reported: “A team of house burglars dubbed the "Underwear Gang" by Malaysian police has struck for the fifth time this year, local media reported. The three-man gang, armed with bolt-cutters and screwdrivers but wearing only T-shirts and underpants, broke into a house in Malacca by prising open a sliding door, police spokesman Gemon Ishak told the New Straits Times. The owner of the house, a 29-year-old woman, was awakened by the noise and went to investigate, surprising the scantily-clad burglars who bundled her and two maids into a room before fleeing with 30,000 ringgit (7,895 dollars) in cash and jewellery. "The robbers were all dressed in black t-shirts and underpants while their faces were covered with a cloth," Gemon said. "We believe the same gang is responsible for at least four house break-ins earlier this year." Police offered no comment on why the gang operates in underpants, but one theory is that they believe a lack of outer clothing will make it harder for victims to describe them to police. [Source: AFP, September 16, 2003]

Grisly Murders in Malaysia

In 1995, a woman witch doctor, her husband and her assistant were sentenced to death for the murder of a Malaysia politician who they lured with promises of political power and then killed for his money. They carried out the murder in 1993 and were hung in 1993. Before he was killed the politician was told to lie on a floor, close his eyes and wait for money to “fall from the sky.” The politician was beheaded with an ax, skinned and chopped into 18 pieces before being buried in a hole and covered over with cement.

In May 2003, a Malaysian court sentenced a lawyer and three farm workers to death over the gruesome murder of a glamorous cosmetics tycoon and her three associates. AFP reported: “The 2010 murder of Sosilawati Lawiya, 47, her driver, lawyer and bank officer shocked Malaysians and dominated the headlines for weeks. The four were reported missing after going to discuss a land deal with the convicted lawyer and his brother on their farm near the sleepy town of Tanjung Sepat, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of the capital Kuala Lumpur. Police said the victims' bodies were torched and the remains scattered in a stream. [Source: Agence France-Presse, May 23, 2013]

A high court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur found the four guilty, a court official said. The charge carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging. "The prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt," Judge Akhtar Tahir was quoted by The Star online as saying. The four convicted were lawyer N. Pathmanabhan, 43, and three farm hands aged between 21 and 33. Initially both Pathmanabhan and his bother were detained, but only Pathmanabhan was charged over the murders. The other brother was released.

A total of 138 witnesses testified in the trial, which saw some dramatic testimony, including one of the farm hands turning on his co-accused. Pathmanabhan was accused of masterminding the killings in a land deal gone bad. Sosilawati, a self-made millionaire, founded Malaysia's popular Nouvelles Visages line of cosmetics.

In March 2103, Xinhua reported: “A top Malaysian customs official was shot dead on the way to work. Shaharuddin Ibrahim, Deputy Director-General of Malaysian customs, was shot by unknown gunmen in the morning on his way to the office in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, police said. Two gunmen on a motorcycle approached Shaharuddin's car at a traffic light junction and shot the senior official in his head and neck. Shaharuddin's driver brought the 58-year-old man to a hospital nearby, where he was later confirmed dead. [Source: Xinhua, April 26, 2013]

Prime Minister Najib and the Murder Scandal of a Mongolian Model

Malaysia Prime Minister was tied to murder scandal. Ian Buruma wrote in The New Yorker, “ A young Mongolian model who was a former mistress of a political crony was found blown to pieces in a jungle clearing near Kuala Lumpur in 2006. At first, it looked like a sordid case of blackmail: she wanted money from her lover, and he, in desperation, had her killed. Then things got more complicated. The men convicted of killing her were police officers in charge of security for top officials. The blogger Raja Petra signed a “statutory declaration” alleging that Najib’s wife had been at the scene of the murder. He has since been charged with criminal defamation. Najib has denied any wrongdoing. For the two main contenders of leadership of Malaysia, the truth of the matter might prove to be less important than the public perception. The fact that Anwar appears to be less vulnerable than Najib suggests that the Malaysian public is more inclined to believe a popular blogger than their unpopular prime minister. [Source: Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, May 19, 2009 <>]

Lindsay Murdoch wrote in The Age, “The plot has all the trappings of a B-grade movie: the murder of a glamorous Mongolian socialite amid allegations of high-level bribery, blackmail, betrayal and political cover-up.Mr Najib denies involvement but the allegations will not go away. The internet in Malaysia is running hot with allegations by a disaffected businessman, Deepak Jaikishan, who is well connected in the ruling United Malays National Organisation. They relate in part to the alleged cover-up of the murder of 28-year-old Mongolian fashion model and translator Altantuya Shaariibuu in a patch of jungle in the Kuala Lumpur suburbs in 2006. The second part of the controversy is driven by an inquiry in France into a complex money trail left by Malaysia's $US2 billion purchase of two French-Spanish built Scorpene submarines in 2002 while Mr Najib was defence minister.[Source: Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, January 13, 2013 <^>]

“Ms Shaariibuu worked as a translator in the latter stages of the deal negotiations. Businessman Abdul Razak Baginda, one of the PM's best friends and a policy adviser, was Ms Shaariibuu's lover. The link between the two events is a Ferrari-driving businessman, Abdul Razak Baginda, one of Mr Najib's best friends and policy advisers, who was the director of the Malaysian Strategic Research Centre. <^>

“Mr Najib denies ever meeting Ms Shaariibuu or having any link with her. The government denies any wrongdoing in the submarine purchases. But it was two of Mr Najib's bodyguards who dragged Ms Shaariibuu from a car, knocked her unconscious and shot her twice in the head on October 19, 2006, according to court testimony. She had begged for her life and apparently that of her unborn child. The killers then wrapped her body in C4 plastic explosives obtained from the military and blew her up, ensuring the foetus was destroyed along with the identity of the father. For good measure, they erased her entry into Malaysia from immigration records. <^>

“The Scorpene submarine story has been tumbling out since 2002 when Mr Najib ordered them from French ship builder DCNS. Two French investigating magistrates are looking into so-called ''commission'' payments of about $160 million into companies reportedly set up by Mr Baginda. Documents have been seized from the DCNS offices in Paris. <^>

“Among several claims made by Mr Deepak - a carpet dealer - to opposition and independent websites are that he interceded to have a private detective change his 2008 sworn declaration that Mr Najib had had a sexual relationship with Ms Shaariibuu. The Prime Minister has repeatedly denied any relationship with Ms Shaariibuu, calling it a ''terrible lie''. Often sensational claims and counter claims in the case have been barely reported in Malaysia's government-controlled mainstream media. <^>

“The Malaysian human rights non-government organisation SUARAM, whose approach to a magistrate in Paris in 2010 prompted the French investigation, has complained of official harassment. But the claims are hot issues on opposition and independent websites, led by the Hong Kong-based Asia Sentinel online magazine, which published confidential files on the case last year and whose editor, John Berthelsen, has doggedly pursued the story for years. But Mr Najib has emerged unscathed by the prosecution of his bodyguards and is publicly ignoring the French inquiry and Mr Deepak's claims as he presents himself as a reformist, abolishing several restrictive laws and implementing a program to bolster unity among ethnic groups.” <^>

See MALAYSIA UNDER PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK Under History

Murder of a Mongolian Model and Blowing Up Her Body with C4 Explosives

Lindsay Murdoch wrote in The Age, “Ms Shaariibuu, who spoke several languages, became Mr Baginda's lover after they had met in Hong Kong. Stunningly beautiful, she had been married to a popular Mongolian singer and to the son of a famous Mongolian fashion designer. Ms Shaariibuu admitted in a letter found after her murder that she had been blackmailing Mr Baginda, who had jilted her after they had travelled through Asia and Europe together. She reportedly had wanted a $US500,000 cut to remain silent about her knowledge of the deal.[Source: Lindsay Murdoch, The Age, January 13, 2013 <^>]

“Ms Shaariibuu was abducted outside Mr Baginda's house, where she was said to be causing a scene. Her murder was eventually uncovered following continued pressure from her well-connected family and the Mongolian embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The two bodyguards were convicted of murder in 2009 but have claimed they are scapegoats and are appealing against death sentences. Pleading with a court not to execute him in February 2009, Sirul Azhar Umar described himself as a ''black sheep that has to be sacrificed'' to protect unnamed people.''I have no reason to cause hurt, what's more to take the life of the victim in such a cruel manner,'' he said. ''I appeal to the court, which has the powers to determine if I live or die, not to sentence me so as to fulfil others' plans for me.'' A judge sensationally dropped an abetting a murder charge against Mr Baginda in 2008 before any evidence was heard and he is believed to be living in exile in Britain with his family.” <^>

According to the Strait Times: “28-year-old Shaariibuu was allegedly killed after she demanded $500,000 from her former lover to provide medical treatment for their sick son. She had arrived in Kualar Lumpur with two other Mongolian women on October 2006 and went to Abdul Razak's office and house several times to look for him but was rebuffed by his security guards. After she arrived, she apparently hired a private detective to find out more about her lover. She was also reported to have sent him many SMS messages. On Oct 19, she received a phone call to meet Abdul Razak at his house. When she showed up outside his house, she was allegedly seized by several men, bundled into a car and driven away. That was the last time she was seen alive.” Any indication that she and two friends had entered Malaysia disappeared from the immigration department's records.

Abdul Razak was charged with abetting her murder while two policemen from an elite unit, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, 30, and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar, 35, are accused of murdering her. Police found bone fragments, believed to belong to Ms Shaariibuu at a ditch in a secluded area near a dam in Puncak Alam.

Asia Sentinel reported: “According to letters found after Altantuya was murdered, she was attempting to blackmail the married Razak Baginda for US$500,000 after he had broken off their affair after spending thousands of dollars on her. The two bodyguards, Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar and his boss, Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, were convicted of the murder and have been sentenced to hang. They are currently appealing the sentence. Sirul confessed to the murder, although the confession was never allowed into evidence in the trial, and said the two had been offered RM100,000 to kill the woman. [Source: Asia Sentinel, November 13, 2009]

“The marathon trial was notable for the extensive lengths the defense, prosecution and judge all went to in a bid to keep Najib's name out of it. Although Razak Baginda, in a cautioned statement, said he had gone to Musa Safri, Najib's chief of staff, to ask for help in keeping Altantuya away from him, neither Musa Safri nor Najib was ever called to give evidence or appear in court. Razak Baginda almost immediately left the country for England after his acquittal. The two bodyguards have rarely been seen in public. When they are produced, their heads are usually covered, leading cynics to speculate that when it comes time to hang them, some other luckless criminals might be forced to substitute for them.” [Ibid]

Murders by Juveniles in Malaysia

In November 2010, Associated Press reported: “A Malaysian court sentenced three teenagers to indefinite imprisonment for beating their classmate to death in a boarding school hazing incident, an official said on Tuesday. The High Court convicted the boys of murdering their classmate in 2007 at a school in Sarawak state on the island of Borneo, a court official said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol. A murder conviction carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging for adults. However, because the three were 16-year-old minors when they committed the crime, they were sentenced to be imprisoned "at the pleasure of the king", which means they are imprisoned indefinitely but can be released if they receive a pardon from the country's constitutional monarch.

There are no guidelines for how long such sentences should last. The killed boy, Matheus Mering August, also then 16-years-old, had been at the boarding school for less than a week when he was found unconscious by school supervisors. Prosecutors said he died of internal injuries after being punched and kicked. Cases of hazing at Malaysian boarding schools and military colleges occasionally occur and have sparked repeated calls for stronger enforcement of anti-bullying guidelines at those institutions. [Source: Associated Press, November 16, 2010]

In November 2003, four teeneagers—two sisters, 14 and 16, and 17-year-old and 18-year-old boys—were charged with the murder a 59-year-old Australian, who was stabbed to death in his home.

Ten Year Jail Sentence Changed to Death Penalty

In April 2009, The Star reported: “They were looking forward to their release next year after serving time for their roles in the murder of Australian engineer Hans Herzog in 2003. However, their hopes turned into a nightmare. The Appeals Court yesterday substituted the 10-year sentence on Low Kian Boon, 24, with the death penalty after finding him guilty of murder. His male accomplice, 23, (whose name cannot be disclosed as he was a juvenile at the time of trial) was ordered to be further detained in prison at the pleasure of the Sultan of Selangor. [Source: The Star, April 9, 2009]

Court of Appeal judge Datuk Gopal Sri Ram, who sat with Justices Datuk Hasan Lah and Datuk Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha, arrived at the decisions after allowing the prosecution’s appeal against the High Court’s decision in convicting Low and his accomplice of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in Herzog’s killing.

The duo, aged 18 and 17 at that time, were charged with committing the offence at a house in Jalan USJ 1/4E, in USJ, Selangor, between 12.20am and 12.45am on Nov 12, 2003. Herzog’s stepdaughters (aged 16 and 14 at the time of the incident) were also charged in connection with the offence but were acquitted and discharged by the Shah Alam High Court on Feb 6, 2006, without their defence being called.

On April 25, 2006, Judge Datuk K.N. Segara ordered Low to be jailed 10 years from the date of his arrest on Nov 15, 2003, and the accomplice also 10 years from his date of arrest on Nov 12, 2003. In April 2009 Justice Sri Ram told Low: “The court finds you guilty of the offence of murder and you will be taken to a place of execution where you will be hanged by your neck until you are dead. May God have mercy on your soul.” As for the accomplice, a child within the Child Act 2001 at the time of the offence, the judge said under Section 97 of the Act, no sentence of death may be passed upon him. “As such, under Section 97(2) of the same Act, we direct (the accomplice) be detained at a place of lawful imprisonment at the pleasure of the Sultan of Selangor,” he ordered.

He said the court found it was Low or the accomplice who must have inflicted the fatal injury on the deceased. “The attack on the deceased was pre-planned. This is supported by the purchase of two parangs and the manner they entered the deceased’s house. “It is equally supported by the fact that one of the accused pursued the deceased down the staircase of his home. “Taking into consideration premeditation, the nature of the weapons, the nature of the injuries inflicted, it indicates a savage attack. “There were 23 slash wounds on (Herzog’s) body including one each at the neck and face. “The irresistible conclusion which a reasonable tribunal properly directed itself on the totality of the evidence is that the accused intended to kill the deceased.”

Police in Malaysia

Malaysia’s federal police force is the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP), which is under the direction of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). States have their own police forces, which are subordinate to the RMP. Data on police are scant, but in 2000 the RMP had 82,383 total personnel, or 353.6 police for every 100,000 persons. In the same year, there were 167,173 total crimes (717.5 crimes per 100,000 persons), mostly thefts and burglaries. Most RMP personnel are Malay; females made up 9.7 percent of total personnel in 2000. The public often perceives the police as excessively forceful, repressive, and unprofessional. International observers contend that Malaysia’s police force is among the country’s most corrupt institutions, and a 2006 MHA report criticized the police for human rights violations, poor policing, and corruption.

Malaysian police have a reputation for being corrupt. 100 Malaysian ringgit is the going price to settle the matter of a speeding offense with police.

Paramilitary Forces: Malaysia has numerous paramilitary organizations, but estimates of their total personnel vary. Malaysian paramilitary forces include the General Operational Force with approximately 10,000 personnel, the marine police with 2,100 personnel, the police air unit whose personnel numbers are publicly unavailable, and area security units—an auxiliary force of the General Operations Force—with 35,000 personnel. In addition, there are 1,200 border scouts (in Sabah and Sarawak) and the People’s Volunteer Corps, which has approximately 300,000 members and is involved in domestic security and community development projects.

In Singapore and Malaysia only on-duty police officers and security agents can own and carry guns. Malaysian police routinely subject detainees to repeated squatting, sometimes until they collapse. Police and prison officials around the world often force smuggling suspects to squat to induce ejection of contraband hidden in bodily cavities. [Source: Wayne Arnold, International Herald Tribune, December 8, 2005 ^^]

Firefighting and Rescue services in Malaysia are primarily provided by the Fire and Rescue Department (Malay version only). The professional services offered by the department address incidents and disasters such as fire, leakage/spillage/explosion of dangerous materials, road accidents, air and sea disasters, and control of open burning. [Source: Malaysian Government]

The public can dial 999 to report all forms of emergencies and expect their calls to be answered within 10 seconds or after four rings by the 999 Emergency Call Service Centre. Offshore search and rescue services including the coordination of such operations are also offered by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. The Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres of this Department provide these services to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Malaysian Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association also provides a wide range of fire and rescue-related services to the public. Their website is a useful point of reference, not only related to their services, but also for information related to safety in the community and the home.

To fight crime, police chief Musa Hassan wants the government to expand his force by a third, or roughly 30,000 officers. Another plan aims to improve the quality of investigations by retaining retiring senior officers to train younger officials. More controversial is a plan to confine foreign workers, who are often blamed for crimes, to work sites during off-duty hours, which has sparked protest from rights groups, because police say they committed just 2 percent of crimes last year. Home-seekers worry about security, said an official at one of the country's largest realty firms, who did not want to be named. "Clients always prefer gated properties, because if there is a break-in, the manager has to replace what is stolen," he added. [Source: Reuters, March 18, 2007]

Religious Police in Malaysia

Malaysia has religious police known as the Jawi. They routinely arrest Muslims for drinking alcohol, kissing in public, gambling, insulting Islam, eating in public during Ramadan, practicing homosexuality and not praying enough. The laws only apply to Muslims. The police have the right to enter homes, bars and hotels and so forth without a warrant.

When the Jawi raid a bar they are coordinated enough to have all the exit and entrances staked out when the raid is conducted. The raids are often conducted in party areas like Penang, in some cases on holidays like Valentine’s day. If men are caught with beer their mugs are placed in plastic bags like bullets from a murder case.

The Los Angeles Times described a 4:00am raid on a hotel in Georgetown, one of the more liberal parts of the country. The police had no warrant and announced that they were ‘Housekeeping” and burst in the room. Inside was a Muslim man and a Hindu man. The woman was set free because it was deemed that she was a Hindu but the man was charged with being in a room alone with a woman, a crime under Sharia law punishable by two years in prison and fines of $790.

Nick Meo wrote in The Times, “Every state has a religious department with Saudi-style moral enforcers and nowhere are they more active than in Kota Bharu, a city of mosques along a muddy river that bustles during the day but falls silent at nightfall. Unmarried couples found sharing hotel rooms are hunted down by the enforcers. Couples caught sitting too close together on park benches are fined 2,000 ringgit (£285) in the city’s shariah court under a provision called khalwat ” loosely translated as “close proximity”. Couples have been forced into marriage after being caught together and moral enforcers sometimes pick on foreigners. [Source: Nick Meo, The Times, August 18, 2007 *+*]

“NonMuslims as well as Malays also sometimes fall foul of the enforcers in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere and there are claims that instead of being paragons of Islamic virtue the enforcers are prone to bribery and have recruited vigilantes into their ranks. In Kota Bharu the enforcers declined to speak to The Times. Mr Hassan explained: “They are worried about being made to look like fools. It could damage the image of Islam if their work is portrayed in the wrong light.” *+*

“Nurhayati Kaprawi, of Sisters in Islam, a group that has spoken out against khalwatand the enforcers, said that many of their raids followed anonymous tip-offs. She said that they frequently terrorised people by barging into homes in the middle of the night. Ms Kaprawi said: “They say they want to implement Islam but the truth is they are really smearing Islam. If they are not stopped they really could become like the Taleban.” *+*

Kuala Lumpur’s Morality Squad

January 2006, it was announced that Islamic religious authorities had formed a team of volunteers to patrol Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, to prevent "indecent behavior" among Muslims. Associated Press reported: “A 75-member Islamic Council Volunteer Squad will be on the lookout for offenders - such as Muslim couples holding hands in public - in Putrajaya, just south of the largest city, Kuala Lumpur, said Che Mat Che Ali, director of the Federal Territory Islamic Department. "Their role is to prevent indecent behavior," Che Mat told the New Straits Times newspaper. "We want them to approach people and advise them against creating social problems and committing sins like that." [Source: AP, January 19, 2006 **]

“A department spokeswoman, Zainab Mohamad, confirmed that the team began work Jan. 16. She stressed that the volunteers - members of Muslim community groups - were not empowered to arrest anyone. The volunteers, uniformed in blue vests and white caps, are expected to alert the department's enforcement officers if they spot offenders while patrolling Putrajaya's parks and other public areas. **

“Islamic department officials already inspect lovers' haunts and occasionally raid venues like discos. Islamic courts can charge suspects with various offenses that often carry prison terms and fines. Critics say the Islamic officers are overzealous and violate civil rights.” **

Jawi Accused of Mistreating Women

In January 2005, morality police known as the Jawi raided a nightclub along Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur. About 100 Muslim youths, half of them women, were allegedly detained for several hours, placed into lock-ups and “treated in a high-handed manner.” The women, including a celebrity, claimed they were ogled at by the officers who also made derogatory comments about them.

Suhaini Aznam wrote in Star, “The raid by the Federal Territory Religious Department (Jawi) on a Kuala Lumpur nightclub has brought into focus this issue as well as the behaviour of officers involved. The mistreatment of the women detained by Jawi’s “morality policemen” has brought wide condemnation by many quarters including Muslim ministers. Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Sharizat Abdul Jaili proposed that women officers be in future raiding parties involving Muslim women. In this case, about half of the 100 people detained were women. Yet only two women officers were at the nightclub. [Source: Suhaini Aznam The Star, January 30, 2005]

The other bone of contention is the quality of the Jawi officers themselves. It was widely reported that the men are alleged to have taken advantage of the women’s embarrassment over their predicament, fears of male Muslim authority and lack of knowledge of their rights. Some women were even kept in lockups for up to 10 hours before they were released. In that time, they were humiliated by being ogled at, and were made to parade for the officers so that photographs could be taken of their “improper attire”.

The basic question is, as always, who gave the guardians of morality the right to be our guardians? In cases of adultery, Islam requires that four men of unimpeachable character must witness the act for themselves to be able to testify. In this case, the Jawi officers seemed to have exercised their duties with undue zeal. The raiding party members were said to have spoken harshly to the women. At the nightclub, they were made to sit on the floor. At the lockup, they were not allowed to go to the toilet. So in desperation, one reportedly relieved herself in full view of everyone else.

Why did Jawi raid the nightclub in the first place? It is the police who check for drugs and prostitution. Jawi presumably was looking out for inappropriate dress and close proximity among young men and women, albeit in full view of the public. And the sale and consumption of liquor, of course.

The alleged mistreatment of women during a raid by the Jawi should not have occurred since the syariah law has more stringent provisions on dealing with women, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Radzi Sheikh Ahmad. “Islam has a lot of respect for women. The provisions on women should be more stringent, and good etiquette, good manners and courtesy towards women are expected. “So, it was a surprise (the alleged misconduct of the Jawi officers),” said Radzi, who is the minister in charge of law.

Radzi said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had expressed concern when the matter was discussed in the last Cabinet meeting. “He said the officers had acted in an un-Islamic manner,” he added. Radzi said Abdullah had then directed the Attorney-General to ascertain if the religious authorities had the power to detain people. He added that the other question was the absence of female officers during the raid and also examination of the women.

He added that civil law required the presence of female officers during such raids and it should also be a requirement in syariah law. “If there is no such provision, then it has to be made. It is only logical,” he added.

Two Policemen Sentences to Death for Murder of Mongolian Model

In April 2009, a Malaysian court sentenced two policemen to death on charges of murdering a Mongolian woman who was blown up with explosives after her yearlong affair with a friend of the prime minister got out of hand. Associated Press reported: “The verdict closes another chapter in a case that has riveted the nation. Wrapping up a 159-day trial, High Court Judge Zaki Yasin ruled that he found the defense of Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri and Corporal Sirul Azhar Umar "unbelievable" as "each of them is blaming the other." He said he was convicting "both of you as charged" with murdering 28-year-old Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu sometime between Oct. 19 and Oct. 20, 2006. "They failed to raise any reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case," Zaki said. "I sentence both of you to death" by hanging, he said. [Source: Associated Press, April 9 2009]

The prosecution had contended that Shaariibuu's murder was ordered by her former lover Abdul Razak Baginda, a well known defense analyst and a popular figure among the country's elite, after their affair ended. Zaki acquitted Abdul Razak, a close aide of Prime Minister Najib Razak, in October of charges of abetting the murder. But the trial failed to explain what motive the policemen could have for killing the woman. Abdul Razak, 48, moved to Britain after the acquittal. "The international community cannot accept that only these two men were responsible. It goes beyond that," said Karpal Singh, a lawyer for Shaariibuu's family. "This is not the end of the road."

Abdul Razak, a married man with a grown up daughter, admitted in his defense to having an affair with Shaariibuu, beginning in late 2004. He portrayed Shaariibuu as a manipulative gold digger, saying he gave her $10,000 after hearing "sob stories" about her financial situation that he later found to be untrue. He said he ended the affair in 2005. According to Abdul Razak, Shaariibuu kept pestering him for money and threatened to go public with their affair, prompting him to seek help from a private investigator and later from the two policemen, who work for an elite unit assigned to VIP security.

The two policemen admitted to picking up Shaariibuu from outside Abdul Razak's house on the evening of Oct. 19, 2006. The prosecution alleged that they then took her to a jungle clearing near Shah Alam, the capital of central Selangor state, shot her to death and blew up her body with military explosives. Only her remains were found. Opposition leaders have repeatedly tried to link Najib, who took over as prime minister a few days before the ruling, and his wife Rosmah Mansor to Shaariibuu's death. Najib and Rosmah have vehemently denied any links, and the case has not directly implicated the government.

The policemen had presented a weak defense. Azilah, 33, admitted to taking Shaariibuu away from Abdul Razak's house on the orders of a superior officer, but he said he handed her over to Sirul and never saw her again. Sirul, 37, refused to testify under oath but only read out a statement insisting he was innocent and was "just a scapegoat who has to be sacrificed to cover up the ill intentions of those who were not in court." However, he did not directly rebut Azilah's claim that he was the last one to be seen with Shaariibuu.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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