October 11, 2010

I Have Moved!

Posted in Malaysia, Personal, Reflections, The Cause at 6:24 pm by egalitaria

Thanks to everyone who for one reason or other has chanced upon my blog.

I have now moved!

Please visit www.triciayeoh.com to continue following my thoughts, writings, and observations as I ruminate about Malaysia and its future.

July 15, 2010

I am what I believe

Posted in Religion, The Cause at 7:15 pm by egalitaria

I was invited last Friday to speak at an event jointly organised by Empower and SIRD (Strategic Information and Research Development Centre) entitled “I am what I believe”. A rather intriguing topic to begin with, the objective of the forum was to bring a diverse range of youth together to discuss the role of religion in politics and the fine workings between the two. The speakers represented the fields of law (Aston Pava from the Bar Council), feminist activism (Nazreen Nizam from Sisters in Islam), social and community work (Mrithula Shiva from the URI, United Religions Initiative), and public policy (myself).

Though I did not have a text, I was asked to prepare a summary of what I wrote for the purposes of their record-keeping and report. So here we go. A rough outline of what I said last Friday evening at MBPJ, with about 30-odd young people sacrificing their night out to have some solid discussion on the religious-political sphere in Malaysia.

The Relationship between Faith and Politics

Tonight I will speak on two over-arching topics in relation to faith and politics; the first will outline my personal background and the reasons for which I subscribe to the principles I believe in today, and thereafter I will try to address the problems that are currently being faced in Malaysia.

I’d like to firstly put a caveat that I am not speaking on behalf of the state government. However, because I do wear that particular hat, I do have a certain amount of experience and exposure in the realm of policy-making from a state government’s point of view. Hence, I speak as a policy analyst, one with experience in government, and one who happens to have been brought up in the tradition of the Christian faith.

My heritage is therefore one of Christian tradition. Having grown up in an environment of relative conservative spirituality, the ‘church’ had us believe that much of what constitutes Christianity is essentially to do with one’s spiritual health – the relationship between self and God, the divine. Most of our teachings were centred upon how to improve one’s spirituality, with a particular focus on the afterlife. However, as I started becoming exposed to public issues such as corruption, injustice, cost overruns (such as the Istana we are now faced with), abuse of power, discrimination of minorities and a host of other issues, I realised that the public-private divide was a myth, for someone whose faith so fundamentally describes the personhood of someone.

Again, I am only speaking based on my own experience. The division between the public and private spheres in this instance was difficult, especially since the ethos that drove me as a person – those very principles of justice, honesty, truth, accountability – were the same things that I would project onto the public sphere. Faith and politics were hence intimately intertwined insofar as social justice was concerned. For example, the efforts to fight slavery in the past stemmed precisely from faith principles (or the interpretation of what those religious principles were to that particular group of advocates).

My premise is therefore that for those whose faiths so intensely drive their being, it is not possible to extricate one from the other. The problem arises, however, when there are varying interpretations of opinions on public morality; or when policymakers begin to take it upon themselves to consciously legislate public morality. This, again, is entirely possible, if and only if, the leader concerned is able to rationally consider what is the greater good for all. This means that policy decisions must be made for ALL from different backgrounds, and these differences must be taken into consideration.

Living in Southeast Asia and Asia, for example, it is inevitable that any of us would have had some sort of exposure to religion growing up and even at present. To say strictly that there IS a separation of the two is utopian for some but impractical for most. Given this reality, how then do we approach decision-making for the public at large?

Let’s focus on Malaysia right now. The problem in our country is that there is a tight and interrelated nexus between the issues of race, religion and politics. Race and religion so fundamentally describe identity. The nexus is therefore between identity and faith, identity and power, which are extremely strong ties. Without delving too deeply into history, the Iranian Revolution in 1979 without a doubt spurred Muslims in Malaysia towards a religious wave. Again, this is too sweeping a generalisation and I am not doing justice to historical political discourse, but what resulted from these trends were the emergence of political parties in a race towards being more Islamic than the other: UMNO and PAS. I do not doubt the genuine intentions of many, but there have certainly been strategic steps taken for political expediency purposes, on both sides. Therefore this establishes that religion in Malaysia ties too closely with politics for us to have a rational discussion on the theoretical relationship between faith and politics – or rather, the prescriptive notion of what ought to be in place.

In addressing the issue of a secular vs. an Islamic state, I believe the definition of the term secular or secularisation is interpreted differently by different quarters, and therein lies the difficulty of discourse. A secular state does not necessarily mean one that is completely non-religious. This just means that the country is not legally defined or shaped or dictated by those religious principles, for example as mentioned above the legislating of public morality. In any case, even without those legal tags that we place upon Malaysia, can we not be satisfied to say that the country is in fact Muslim in ethos nevertheless?

The more interesting question to me, therefore, is then to what extent can personal beliefs inform our policy decisions? Should they at all? In the courts, through government administration? I believe that faith can inform and influence our decisions, but only to the extent that it benefits the greater good for all. The important consideration is that of people of multiple religions being affected as a result of any public policy decision.

And yet, more and more issues besiege us daily. There are the issues of the “Allah” controversy, temple relocation, church-burning, Kartika and caning as a result of alcohol consumption, apostasy and the list continues. My personal conviction is that we ought to ask ourselves where we are at the cross-roads, where we want to go and how is it we are to get there? We must be able to work on faith principles and common values that can be applied to the public sphere. I can think offhand of initiatives such as working on poverty, the right to water, refugee issues, humanitarian aid, and so on. There is a need to recognise common ground, that of respect, dignity, trust. The Common Word Document that was sent by leading Muslims around the world to the Church community was an epitome of such respect for a common belief in one God and that of loving thy neighbour.

This work has to begin with the young, as I believe some would be too encumbered with baggage of their own beliefs and that of their heritages (including that within the Christian faith) to progress further. More people of such thought projections should be empowered to speak up and express their opinions, without the religious agenda being hijacked by a select few. More avenues must be given, such that religious views are not exclusive to those who are legally or administratively given the right to speak or define one’s personal beliefs. We must be able to break free from the insecurities, fears of identity that have burdened our own communities for far too long.

What are the right avenues to work on this agenda? Through profession (the vocation that one chooses to take up i.e. law, policy), involvement in civil society (NGOs like Perkasa are powerful but to speak up means forming and joining other NGOs to have a critical mass and show voice and power), politics (being involved in actual decision-making or supporting those in politics who share your views), the media and Internet (Web 3.0 is powerful as a source of influencing opinions far and wide). Ultimately, it’s about education and opening of the mind. Remember this. Leaders make decisions based on what they believe the people want. Enough people believing and displaying publicly that they desire traditional, classical religion to be less defined within the law, will eventually lead the way to that end. This, after all, is democracy.

July 14, 2010

Selangor Fulfills Commitment on Right to Information

Posted in Selangor, The Cause at 9:55 pm by egalitaria

Download the FOI Draft Enactment HERE.

The idea for a Freedom of Information Act is not a new one. Many a conference and public forum has called for such an enactment even prior to the March 8th General Election. In other countries, it varies from being known as a “Freedom of Information” to a “Right to Information” Act (the latter is true for countries in India). When Pakatan Rakyat stepped into power in Selangor, this was a prime opportunity for the state government to put into practice what it has always called for at the Federal level.

The process was not necessarily an easy or a direct one. The enactment was drafted by several parties, and went under the scrutiny of the State Legal Advisor in its final stages. The issue of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and how that would work was one issue on everyone’s minds. Administratively, which agencies would be covered? What would the mechanisms be? Who makes the decisions? All these questions are hopefully answered in the draft enactment…

Which has been finally tabled for first and second reading TODAY at the Selangor State Legislative Assembly! Let today be a historic day, with an unprecedented enactment, either at the State or Federal levels. The next step is for the newly elected Select Committee (chaired by YB Saari Sungib) to decide on how to proceed, which would include several rounds of public consultation. After collating the feedback and having various (thorough I am sure) discussions, table it for the third and final reading.

We must ensure that the implementation of this FOI enactment takes place efficiently, lest it becomes a mere justification for living up to our own self-imposed standards of transparency and public accountability. Officers with traditional and conservative views will need to be given training and exposure, to operate on the principle of information availability with only narrow exceptions.

We should also now include as a clarion call for the Federal Government to take up the initiative. In the very least, some reform must be done to address the archaic laws of the OSA, Printing Presses and Publications Act, and a slew of other Acts which have continuously served to restrict and muzzle freedom of expression and of media.

Thanks to YB Elizabeth Wong (Chair of the FOI Taskforce) and team, they’ve compiled the Media Reports below here. Enjoy:

S’gor tables ground-breaking FOI Bill (Malaysiakini)
Enakmen kebebasan maklumat (Malaysiakini)
‘Bil kebebasan maklumat ‘ceroboh’ perlembagaan’ (Malaysiakini)
Selangor merakyatkan informasi (Malaysiakini)
BN says FOI encroaching on Federal powers (TheEdge)
Amid media clampdown, S’gor tables FOI Bill (Malaysia Chronicle)
巫统议员批雪资讯自由法违宪 黄洁冰:阳光是最好的消毒剂 (Malaysiakini)
雪政府提呈资讯自由法 决策与行事摊在阳光下 (merdekareview)
指大臣有解密权无必要立法 国阵:雪州资讯自由法违宪 (merdekareview)
《资讯自由法令》让人民监督政府 拯救被腐蚀的机制 (Therocknews)
BN opposition attacks Selangor’s Information bill (TheMalaysianInsider)

July 10, 2010

Democratising Women

Posted in Malaysia, Selangor, Tricia's Writings at 3:16 pm by egalitaria

The July edition of the Penang Economic Monthly is out! This time I co-author a piece with gender expert Dr. Cecilia Ng on the issue of Democratising Women. Gender and politics in Malaysia is changing rapidly with the Pakatan Rakyat having a significant number of women representatives. What have the Selangor and Penang state governments done to advance the gender reform agenda?

Democratising Women

Tricia Yeoh and Cecilia Ng

Part of the excitement associated with the post-political tsunami of March 8th 2008 when Pakatan Rakyat (PR) took over four (now three) state governments was that it signalled a greater democratisation of the country’s polity. This process certainly includes the transition towards making the practice of deeply entrenched public power more transparent and accountable, the debates of which have indeed since flourished at both Federal and State levels. Today, we have both the Barisan Nasional and PR component parties championing the labels of transparency and accountability in a political market competition of sorts, the evaluation of which is at the public’s disposal, and the results of which are tabulated at elections – or so the process ought to be.

That said, another fundamental aspect of this process of ‘greater democratisation’ is that of inclusive citizenship, where all individuals in society should be empowered to contribute to the formation and practice of public policy – the drawing upon private citizens into public spheres so to speak. Academics have argued that although democracy is premised on the idea of universal citizenship where everyone has the right to be treated equally under the law, it tends to reflect the male and heterosexual citizen. The redefinition of politics is therefore necessary to challenge the practice of it being essentially male-dominated and heteronormative.

And Malaysia?

The same is true of Malaysia, whose male-dominant political representation has resulted in gender-skewed policies and practices. Who can forget, for example, one Parliamentarian’s brash remarks referring to a fellow woman Member of Parliament’s menstrual cycle in utterly distasteful humour? More serious, however, are the impacts of such similar strains of thought upon the laws that govern the country, and in turn, the implications of those on women. One of the solutions has been through a model of ‘fast-tracking’ to redress the historic exclusion of women, where more and more countries are adopting quotas, as temporary measures, for increased political representation for women. The goal is to ensure both descriptive and substantive representation of women in the political arena.

There are 13.9 million women in the country, making up % of the national population. The participation rate of women in the Malaysian labour force increased from 44.7% in 1995 to 46.4% in 2009, which is relatively low compared to neighbouring countries like Thailand (70%), Singapore (60.2%) and Indonesia (51.8%). In positions of decision-making, the number of female Members of Parliament increased from 5.3% to 10.4% between 1990 and 2009. Women now account for 30.5% of top public sector management positions in 2010, a rise from 6.9% in 1995. However, in the private sector women only make up 6.1% of Malaysia’s corporate directors.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 4, 2010

Selangor’s Freedom of Information Enactment

Posted in Selangor, The Cause at 4:47 pm by egalitaria

It’s taken a while, but the Selangor Freedom of Information Enactment will finally be tabled for its first reading at the upcoming State Legislative Assembly sitting! It will be interesting to see how the Federal Government reacts to this, although they should not be too concerned since only state-related documents will be of relevance here.

BFM Radio interviewed me earlier in the week (it was aired on Monday 7.30am, which I unfortunately missed). The podcast is available here. I spoke about our plans to table the enactment, as well as what the draft roughly contains.

One of the issues was whether or not the Official Secrets Act would interfere with our enactment. The answer (broadly speaking, since there are many technical details that one could write on) is no: Only state-agencies’ information will be made transparently available to the public. Federal agencies’ documents, classified by the Federal Government, are not relevant in this case. However, the Selangor Menteri Besar has the authority under Section 2A of the OSA to declassify certain documents, the power of which he has already exercised numerous times over the past two years (on issues like Bukit Botak etc.).

This is not the final draft yet and there will be several stages to go, like a Select Committee to be formed, public opinion gathered based on the existing document, and then second reading after taking those recommendations and suggestions into account.

World Cup Project: Gol?

Posted in Malaysia, Outside Malaysia, Tricia's Writings at 4:39 pm by egalitaria

Amir Muhammad and team always seem to have some project or other up their sleeve. I appreciate their creativity in a Malaysian society that is just too willing to go with the flow, without any initiative on new and fresh ideas. So their project Gol? is yet another addition, a breath of fresh air to the stale rot, I mean, political condition, of Malaysia. They’ve gathered authors to write on their experiences and thoughts whilst watching the 2010 World Cup being staged in South Africa, from local mamak stalls and such. It’s been interesting to observe the variety of writing styles and content of each author.

I was invited to contribute a piece on the last Quarter Final match, between Paraguay and Spain. Yes, Spain won. And yes, my piece lacks football punditry (I am not a football pundit), and is bone-dry as it analyses history and policy somewhat. But here it is for your consumption.

Paraguay vs. Spain

by Tricia Yeoh

The world is flat, and so is the football field. But the international flavour of any World Cup offers other historical sub-themes that are unseen at face value. Here you have the gathering of once-upon-a-time colonisers and their former colonies, put together in the spirit of apparent sporting unity and brotherhood. Never mind that their forefathers once had you under their thumb for centuries, putting you in a position of subordination. No, the World Cup erases all national memory. Come to the pitch and think about the game. Nothing else matters.

Or does it?

This psychological love-hate relationship of coloniser-colony is something Malaysians have equally struggled with. The British left us with infrastructure, schools, language, and a legal and constitutional framework of governance, which were positive contributions. But they also initiated a divide-and-rule system, conveniently classifying our wide variety of ethnicities into categories of ‘race’, which we have inherited today, causing us to think of Malaysians as largely homogeneous definitions of “Malay, Chinese, Indian”. We have not been able to rise above this particular negative effect the British left behind. In fact, this tragedy and its political consequences may be the singular cause for all other problems faced, including Malaysia’s inability to shine in international football.

This quarter-finals pitted Spain against its former colony, Paraguay. Although Paraguay achieved its independence relatively early compared to other Spanish conquests in South America, almost 300 years of authoritarian Spanish rule had a detrimental effect on their people, in terms of poverty, lack of access to education and undemocratic practices. Paraguay would thereafter succumb to dictatorship and civil unrest, leading it to a struggling economy which still exists today, with about 60% of its people living in poverty.

But their fighting spirit at Ellis Park tonight bore no resemblance to these conditions. Although the first half ended with no goals on either side, Paraguay showed its brute confidence and bravado in pushing forward, never giving up despite their disadvantaged position. They were, after all, up against the team that topped the bookmakers’ odds in winning the World Cup (that is, before Spain’s first game).

Read the rest of this entry »

June 25, 2010

Understanding Federalism

Posted in Selangor, The Cause at 11:43 pm by egalitaria

I am not sure Malaysians are familiar with the concept of federalism. When the 10th Malaysia Plan referred to the word “Federalism”, I had to stifle a laugh because they simply did not seem to get it right. Instead of recognising the autonomy of States (like Selangor, Perak, Penang and so on) to have their legitimate control over areas that are defined constitutionally… they used the term to refer to the transfer of power from state to the Federal Government. Authors of the document, wake up! What you refer to is actually centralisation of power. Not a very healthy trend of democracy, if I may say so myself.

But it’s alright. You guys can go ahead and centralise solid waste management. People may end up paying higher fees if the one private company you choose eventually has to hire other sub-contractors, creating greater layers and in effect making people pay more. You’re probably going to get people to be more dissatisfied.

But hey, not everyone on our side understands Federalism too. There is an interesting post by a friend entitled “Khalid Ibrahim and his enemies” here. His two points raised are interesting, which are below, followed by my thoughts on his points.

  1. The practice of separating party and state is indicative of a healthy democracy.

When I was doing research for the Integrity Index, one of the key indicators of a healthy integrity score is exactly this: the separation between party and state. Maybe I am being too idealistic. Am I? In our context, there are already those from the party who are nominated in positions representing an interest in the state government and given a decision-making role.

The culture, however, is for the state to provide other recognition to the party. If it is finances, I think the answer is pretty clear: there ought to be separation. If it is nominated positions in state GLCs: this should be done only if the people are professionals, competent and possess the necessary skill sets required. Even so, preference shouldn’t be given purely on the basis of one’s party affiliation, should it? It should be based on whether the person is able to deliver. If the persons are excellent and able and happen to be affiliated to a party, then fine, by all means. The key determinant of being selected into a position is the ability to deliver and make wise, informed decisions.

2.  Parliamentarians and state assemblymen have separate and distinct functions.

In our country, we also have to accept the reality that people are not educated on the varying roles of MPs, State assemblypersons and local councillors. Whenever there is a problem of longkang tersumbat or botched-up roads, people will turn to whichever representative they can get access to. So, because MPs get called on to solve state-related problems, they therefore feel they have a stake in the governing of the State. This is an unfortunate reality. MPs should actually be focusing their attention on national-level affairs, the drafting and debating and passing of Bills into Acts.

Having said that, the principle of federalism also calls for there to be a separation of jurisdictions. So ultimately, it should legitimately fall on State Assemblymen to make the call for matters relating to the state. But there should always be the culture of openness, consultation, participative discussion, inclusiveness of all who have concerns and recommendations. MPs have access to people because of the multitude of people they meet. They too are the eyes and ears, and have valid perspectives that are valuable to the state administration. So, i) State Assemblymen have a legitimate State function; and ii) There must be room for MPs to express their valid views.

Having weighed all the concerns, let us remind ourselves the reason we are fighting this fight. Let’s go beyond the farcical sandiwara, the games, the lobs made between different sides whether internally or externally. What are the principles upon which we stand?

There are lots of problems and issues that we must continue to iron out. And this is true. So much to change. So much work to do. In the meantime, this is a painful but necessary process of educating ourselves on how to “do” democracy. Living so many years under one government, we have to be re-educated. Mistakes will be made. But we must do this together. Call it cliched, but a rope with many cords is much stronger than a rope of only one.

But on this count, on the count of relying on state for the interest of anything non-state, let us be alert. And err on the side of caution, because without caution, we run the risk of sliding down the slippery slope… which would then bring us to the pits of UMNO. And who wants that, really? ;)

Found in Malaysia

Posted in Malaysia, Personal, Reflections at 12:35 am by egalitaria

The Nut Graph was kind enough to interview me for their section on “Found in Malaysia“, where they interview public personalities about their paths and histories. (I thought, hmm, am I one?) Anyways, here is the interview. Enjoy!

Precisely Malaysian

Posted on 24 June 2010 By Ding Jo-Ann.

(All pics courtesy of Tricia Yeoh)(All pics courtesy of Tricia Yeoh)


TRICIA Yeoh
is not one to shy away from a challenge. Despite being warned that joining the state government would not be smooth sailing, the 28-year-old took on the job of research officer to Selangor’s Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in January 2009.

Yeoh has been at the forefront of public policy discourse since completing her Masters and joining Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) in 2006 as a research analyst. She has become a familiar face at public forums, often speaking about the need for national unity, good governance and better implementation of democratic principles. Yeoh was appointed CPPS director in 2008, filling the shoes of former director Dr Lim Teck Ghee, who resigned in 2006 in protest over a corporate equity ownership report. She remains on CPPS’s advisory panel.

Yeoh says despite the challenges in her current job, she has learnt a lot about how government works from the inside. “Having written and analysed policy issues from the outside for a while, taking up the job with the Selangor government allowed me an opportunity to put those ideas into action. It gives me a chance to be part of demonstrating an alternative to running the country, that good governance is possible,” Yeoh says in an 8 June 2010 interview at her office in Shah Alam.

TNG: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Tricia Yeoh: I was born in Singapore in 1982. I grew up in different parts of Petaling Jaya – SS2, Taman Megah. I still live in Petaling Jaya now, so I guess I’m very much a Selangor citizen. I went to primary school in Sekolah Rendah Taman Megah and then to Sri Aman Girls’ School in secondary school.

With her parentsWith her parents

What are some of your strongest memories of the place where you grew up?

I remember the neighbourhood playground in Taman Megah well. It’s where all of us who lived nearby would come together, even those from different schools. We had a lot of social activities there – playing with candles and lanterns during the mooncake festival, for example. There were really huge trees with big roots, so whenever it rained, we would splash around in the puddles formed by the roots.

Everything centred around the neighbourhood – there was an ethos of sharing, knowing each other well. There were many different races … it was very communitarian. Every evening, we would congregate. We would play on the streets, play badminton, go cycling, play basketball, five stones or getah. I don’t know whether children do these sorts of things nowadays.

I think it’s important to create such public spaces. At the end of the day, neighbourhoods and communities are where social interaction takes place. Where people draw their perceptions about different races and religions. If friendship and interaction doesn’t start at a young age, then once you grow up into teenage and adulthood, certain impressions would already be formed.

Read the rest of this entry »

June 8, 2010

Governing Selangor: Policies, Programmes & Facts

Posted in Selangor, The Cause at 10:21 pm by egalitaria

One of the successful projects we did at the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) in 2008 was an electronic compilation of Policy Factsheets, putting everything one needed to know about the country’s policies into bite-sizes. These became easy reference material for voters to judge for themselves the successes (or failures) of the Government in delivering upon things like Healthcare, Crime Rates, Poverty, Education, the Economy, and so on. Condensed into 2-3 pages, some politicians and campaigners even used them at their various ceramahs. 

At the Selangor Government, one project my team and I worked on was to compile all of Selangor’s policies and programmes accomplished over the past two years into a booklet. This gives a complete overview of ALL the Pakatan Rakyat policies and programmes that we have been working hard on. This covers all the portfolios that the State Executive Council (Exco) is in charge of, namely, the list below: 

You can also download the files available in both Malay and English here.

  1. Merakyatkan Ekonomi Selangor (People-Based Economy)
  2. Economic Stimulus Package
  3. Transparent and Accountable Government
  4. State Finances
  5. Trade, Industry and Investment
  6. Tourism
  7. Islamic Affairs and Malay Customs
  8. Non-Muslim Affairs
  9. Local Government
  10. Poverty Eradication and Caring Government
  11. Environment
  12. Consumer Affairs and Orang Asli
  13. Land
  14. Gender and Women’s Issues
  15. Youth Issues
  16. Entrepreneurial Development
  17. Science, Technology and Innovation
  18. Holistic Development
  19. Education
  20. Culture
  21. Agriculture
  22. Plantation Workers
  23. Housing
  24. New Villages and Illegal Factories
  25. Healthcare

As you can see, there has been quite a bit of work done to deliver upon all the various portfolios. Sometimes it is just that the Selangor State Government has lacked the communication tools necessary to ensure these policies and programmes’ information is filtered to the ground, to people like you and me! Us netizens deserve a lot of info and trust me, we are working hard at this. 

Again, you can download it from my makeshift google site here.

Share the document far and wide if you can!

Safety in the Cities

Posted in Malaysia, Selangor, Tricia's Writings at 9:17 pm by egalitaria

As usual I have been very undisciplined in keeping my blog active. Sorry, peeps. Well here is my column from the Penang Economic Monthly :) This time, on safety in the cities… They’ve also put it up on The Malaysian Insider here

Safety In The Cities

A horrific incident occurred in April in Shah Alam, Selangor, that will sadly be merely an additional statistic in the growing list of police shootings recorded in recent times.

Fifteen-year-old Aminulrasyid Amzah was shot to death by police manning a roadblock. He was driving without a licence at 2am and, to avoid the police check, he reportedly backed into several policemen instead. He was shot dead whilst a passenger in the car managed to escape. The death of this teenager sent shockwaves throughout the country.

Whilst it is true that the public has been clamouring for greater police surveillance to improve safety and security in the cities, the “trigger-happy” behaviour by our men in blue is not helping to combat crime. In fact, it hurts further public confidence in our law enforcers.

In a survey conducted by the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research released in January 2010, “crime and public safety” was listed as one of the top five concerns in Peninsular Malaysia. In November 2009, the Home Ministry’s website opinion polls showed that 97 per cent or 9,729 out of 10,060 respondents felt unsafe because of the high crime rate, and 95 per cent felt that their safety was not guaranteed. This has been a consistent concern, corresponding to the alarming rise in crime figures over the last 10 years. For example, violent crime increased by 8.7 per cent in the first five months of 2007 compared with the same period the previous year. Violent crime increased by 85 per cent between 2003 and 2006. Rape cases increased by 95 per cent in 2009. Selangor records the highest crime rates for both petty and violent crimes.

There is also a worrying increase in house burglaries in 2009, a year that recorded a relative jump of such crimes taking place in broad daylight compared to night-time.

The “Crime Index”, a measure kept by the Royal Malaysian Police, rose by 45 per cent between 2003 and 2007 from 156,315 to 224,298 cases. (Note: It was not possible to obtain more recent crime index figures). Crimes that are reported with sufficient regularity and given sufficient significance are considered meaningful to the index. An occurrence is considered a crime when it is reported either by the victim or a witness, or on the initiative of the police upon discovery of a criminal activity. The index describes two categories of crime, namely violent and property crime, with snatch thefts being considered a separate and unique category due to its frequency. Although this index is the only possible means of measuring crime in the country, the police also recognise “dark figures”, which is the gap between reported and unreported crime.

The government’s efforts

Given our dire situation, how should policies be shaped to ensure safety in our cities?

Read the rest of this entry »

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